4:12 PM EST, January 30, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly asked veteran Capitol Hill staffer John Zody this week to run the Indiana Democratic Party, but his appointment hinges on approval of the party's state central committee.
A Democratic official close to Donnelly confirmed Wednesday that the senator was calling members of the committee to seek their support for Zody's appointment. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the selection ahead of Donnelly's public announcement later this week.
The state's top-ranking elected Democrat typically chooses the party chairman, but the committee has final approval.
Zody has worked as former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill's chief of staff and most recently led President Barack Obama's re-election effort in the Midwest. He would replace Dan Parker, who has led the party since 2004.
Parker announced his resignation in late 2011, saying the party needed new leadership, but then rescinded his decision.
Parker said at the time he had thought about stepping down in 2010 but wanted to give Democrats the best chance of winning in 2012 by getting the central committee to endorse former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg in his run for governor and Donnelly for Senate. Gregg lost the 2012 governor's race to Republican Mike Pence, but Donnelly defeated Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock to win the seat that had been held by Republican Richard Lugar for more than three decades.
Democrats have seen some big wins and losses under Parker. President Barack Obama in 2008 became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Indiana since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But in 2010, Republican Dan Coats won the U.S. Senate seat by beating then-Rep. Brad Ellsworth after Democrat Evan Bayh decided to retire, and Republicans won two U.S. House seats and control of the state House.
Despite Donnelly's victory, Democrats lost further ground in 2012, when Republicans picked up a supermajority in the Indiana House that allows them to conduct business without any Democrats present.
Carmen Darland, chairwoman for the 3rd District, said she is keeping an open mind about the new leader. "I think we need to consider the input of everyone," she said.
The 18-member state central committee is scheduled to meet March 16 to vote on the next party chairman. Darland said others whose names are mentioned as possible candidates include former state Sen. Vi Simpson, who was Gregg's running mate; former gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger, and South Bend activist Mike Schmuhl.
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