Are Hoosier Democrats Catching On?

My recurring answer to the question “what can we do about [fill in the blank]”has been “we have to get out the vote.” (In a recent Substack letter, Robert Hubbell pointed to an organization he believes is effective in doing just that: Focus For Democracy,. I know nothing about it, but I’m transmitting his recommendation.)

 We all know that GOTV will be immensely important at the federal level, but we also need to recognize that down ballot races are equally critical–especially in Indiana, where the state lags in so many crucial areas thanks to the state’s Neanderthal Super-Majority. I’ve written before about the importance of the Secretary of State race, and I keep hearing that   the candidates on the Democratic statewide ticket are unusually impressive. 

Hoosier Democrats may finally have figured out that you can’t beat something with nothing.  This year, the party has recruited some truly first-class candidates to run in districts they  have historically written off.

And that brings me to Joey Mayer, who is running in House District #24. Her website is here.

Mayer is a high-quality candidate. She describes herself as “a life-long Hoosier, a mother, a wife, a small-business owner, a community organizer, a rescue dog mom and proud Democrat,” and in our discussions, she has come across as knowledgable, grounded and hard-working. She has knocked on more doors than any other candidate for Indiana’s statehouse, and she has a good grasp of policy–especially the policies that prompted her to run.

Her opponent is Donna Schaibley, an incumbent whose voting record places her firmly  within the extremism  of today’s GOP. Schaibley was one of the Republican lawmakers who sent a  letter to the governor demanding a special session to ban abortion, and (of course) she voted in favor of the ban.   She also voted against House Amendment #43, which would have put a non-binding question (shall abortion remain legal in Indiana?)  on the November ballot.  (Evidently, she was uninterested in finding out what Hoosiers actually wanted…)

Schaibley supported HB 1134–the House version of the Senate bill that, had it passed, would have dictated what Indiana’s public school teachers can and cannot teach (the embarrassing “be fair to Nazis” bill  about which I previously posted.) And–predictably–she voted for permit-less carry, despite warnings about its dangers from multiple police and public safety officials .

Joey is pro-choice, pro-teacher, and pro-public education (as she says, public education works best when provided by professionals rather than politicians). She supports reasonable gun safety regulations. She has laid out her policies on her website, and I encourage you to click through and read them.

When I first went to that website and looked at the boundaries of District 24, I figured hers was a hopeless task. Much of the district is rural, and regular readers of this blog know I consider rural Indiana unreachably Red. But Joey has had some surprising experiences at those doors she’s been knocking on: she failed to anticipate the number of people who’ve told her “I thought I was the only Democrat in Hamilton County,” and the equally-unanticpated  number of self-identified Republican women who  begin by saying they’d never have an abortion themselves but go on to criticize Indiana’s ban as a huge and dangerous government overreach.

Several Democratic strategists who previously “wrote off” the district have moderated their initial skepticism. (As one told me, “It’s uphill, but it could happen.”)

There is a lesson here–a lesson that ought to be obvious: political parties that want to win elections don’t ignore difficult districts. They challenge them –and they do it by recruiting the highest-quality, hardest-working, most attractive candidates they can find. 

In District 24, the Democrats have such a candidate. She is working hard, and she is challenging an extremist–a Republican forced-birth advocate who, despite claiming to be “pro-life,” supports measures that feed America’s deadly gun violence, and who also wants to micro-manage the teachers in Indiana’s public-school classrooms. The contrast could not be greater.

If a Democrat is ever going to flip this seat, this is the year it will happen.

But no matter the outcome, running an exceptionally good  Democratic candidate deprives this member of the GOP cult of the opportunity to hide her extremist positions. If survey research is to be believed, only a minority of Hoosiers–even in rural Indiana– agree with those positions.

I’m going to throw a few dollars into this race, and I encourage those of you who can to do likewise. If any of you live in District 24, I hope you’ll volunteer and work to get out the vote.

Good candidates deserve all the help we can provide. And for once, Indiana Democrats have a lot of very good candidates!


  1. One heck of a carved-up district. I am sure there is an abundance of straight R voters in District 24, but you can’t let voters stay home and remain hopeless. The Indiana Democratic Party has done that for so long, the Koch network doesn’t spend much money here.

    I wonder what kind of PAC ad buys she’s facing in her district. Let us know who’s buying them and the content. We might catch it in ECI since TV channels are all Indy, and Koch dropped a few bucks during college football.

    It takes an incredible amount of resources – money and energy to run an uphill campaign so the outcome usually deters people from spending either.

    The next issue is making any headway in Indianapolis if she does win the uphill battle. Indiana’s power center has no accountability to the press or the people, which is the major problem.

    When the citizens in Indiana realize that they’re paying taxes to government institutions that aren’t accountable to the people, then we can unify and take control back. But, with a captive press, that is extremely difficult.

    Workers/taxpayers have the power to strike, and we’re seeing the social unrest elevate globally. Watch Chile and Brazil, and all of Europe. A revolt is coming.

  2. What I still don’t fully understand is why people like Donna Shaibley exist in politics. How do they justify doing so much harm to actual freedoms of choice, while advocating for gun crazies and the censoring of school curriculum? And what sort of people buy this antediluvian bullshit? In other words, how did the Republican party become the party of morons – seemingly overnight?

    Take heart, Hoosiers. This sort of idiocy is everywhere. Yes, evil entities like Koch Industries and their all-too-many friends greatly influence politics. This situation is, of course, the consequences of the Republican SCOTUS passing the pretzel opinion in Citizens United v. FEC. I say pretzel because of the Celtic knot of logic and reason tied by the pseudo-intellectual Antonin Scalia. God cannot possibly rest his soul after what his opinion did to so many in our country. No, corporations are NOT people. The mind boggles at this kind of illogic.

    So, yes. We are at an inflection point where not only do we have to put criminals like Trump in prison (sooner the better), but we must oust anti-social detractors like this Shaibley creature everywhere in the nation…at all levels of government. Yes, ALL Democrats have to get off of their self-righteous asses and vote. Because that’s the only way we’re going to get rid of Trump’s appointees on the court, stifle the moronic push to alter school curriculum and once again have government do what it’s supposed to do: BENEFIT ALL THE PEOPLE.

    But I do carry on. I suppose somebody with letters will tell us that thoughts like these will not prevent the demise of our once-great nation.

  3. This is a very hopeful post. I will also send her some money and hope that she can pull off an upset.
    I read somewhere that Indiana is not so much a “red state” as it is a purple state with a voting turnout problem. Maybe, just maybe, this year will be different.

  4. I would very much like to hear about other Democrat hopefuls in the state elections. I would like to see Todd Young defeated in the mid-term, but this time it seems that the most important place to put my money is on state and local elections.

  5. Amongst realities people do not grasp are (1) since landlines are in the past & demographics of cell phone users can’t be ascertained, a minimally accurate poll of a Congressional District is, minimum $50K. Most Congressional campaigns either can’t afford polling or see the money as best spent elsewhere. (2) People underestimate the number of Hoosiers, but especially Hoosier women, who are pissed off about Roe. It’s possible that at least one seat could flip blue. (I’m thinking of Gary Snyder who’s running against Banks). Without polling, an election night “surprise” is possible. A poll out this weekend, on the U.S. Senate race shows Todd “So What I I’m a Whore for the NRA the Pay’s Good” Young only up two points over Mayor McDermott. To flip the Senate seat would be nice. To flip a House seat would be helpful to prevent a death grip on the House. One can only hope the days of the John Greggs, or worse the Evan Bayhs, controlling the Democratic Party are past.

  6. Thank Stacey Abrams for showing that ignoring rural areas doesn’t make sense. Polling shows that people (even those in rural areas) like the policy positions of Dems, but the label turns them away. Knock on doors. Make sure everybody you talk with feels like they know you. Focus on them recognizing the candidates name. If they ask about problems that are specific to their circumstances, do what you can to help, even if it means coming back later with some kind of answer. That alone will win over a lot of voters.

    Even Mitch McConnell recognizes the need for quality candidates. Find them and support them.

  7. You reminded me that everything about politics involves money to support a candidate. I have given money to Obama and Bernie but that’s it, never again.

    We must get money out of politics or we are going to fight for our rights forever.

  8. What is needed in this and every race is “peer to peer” campaigning. There is huge research evidence that you will pay relatively little attention to a political door knock, email, text, phone call/voicemail or postcard UNLESS it comes from/via someone you know or know of. If the latter, the chances of engagement a multiplied many times.

    Thus, find a “hidden rural DEM” who you know or is just responsive and ask them to reach out to folks they know with the candidate’s message in their own words while asking them to do the same. You build a powerful pyramid with a significantly greater chance of impact at the polls.

  9. I find it curious what Professor considers “rural”. While House District 24 is heavily gerrymandered to include many sparsely populated areas that could be described as rural, but the majority of its residents live in the Western end of the massive concrete crescent of fully-developed farm-fields that surrounds the North side of Marion County. Boone County accounts for much of District 24 where 58% voted for TFG/Pence. If that’s the normal watermark for “hopeless” then I don’t why Dems would even bother to show up to almost ANY race. The truly rural counties turned out voting levels of 75-80% for TFG/Pence. They are truly hopeless.

    Another great candidate for Indiana Senate is Jocelyn Vare running in the suburb/exurb district 31. She had previously won a seat as a Dem on the Fishers City Council, itself an amazing accomplishment. If readers of this blog and/or Dems haven’t figured out that the only way to dial back the IN GQP monopoly stranglehold is to support candidates who have a chance to pick off a few key offices in the Indy donut districts then we’re certainly a hopeless cause.

  10. “I thought I was the only Democrat in Hamilton County,”

    I am baffled as to why Mr. Mayer would say that. The Democratic candidate in 2020 got nearly 41.9% of the vote in HD #24, which followed 41.6% in 2018. In 2014 and 2016, the Democrats did not even bother to field a candidate . You’ve seen a dramatic shift to Democratic Party in that district (and Hamilton County as a whole), which trend was accelerated by one Donald J. Trump.

    Mr. Mayer is running in a newly-configured HD #24 so those numbers will be different. Republicans might have shored up her district by adding in more GOP voters while deducting Democrats. But it is really difficult to do that. Hamilton County has become increasingly Democratic. It has a D baseline county-wide of about 43 or 44%. (The Hamilton County cities of Fishers, Westfield and Carmel have D baselines of around 46%.) If they try making her district more Republican, that takes Republican votes from a nearby district making that district more competitive. While the district might be a bit more Republican now, I doubt it’s much more so. I think the GOP probably is expecting Schaibley to use her incumbency advantage to hold the district.

    I don’t think HD #24 is a top tier competitive race. However, it is a close second tier competitive district though. It is probably a long shot for 2022, but it is winnable if not in November, a few elections down the road. Hamilton County, which just over a decade ago was the most Republican county in the state will be a Democratic county in 10-20 years.

    I do feel the need to point something out. If a wannabe candidate came to me and asked for advice, the first piece of advice I would give him or her is to know the numbers in your district inside and out. Know where the votes are and work on using issues to try to move some from voters from the R column to the D column. Given Mr. Mayer’s comment, I’m not sure he knows the Democratic strength in his district or countywide. He needs to know the numbers better and the Hamilton County Democratic leadership needs to help him at least understand the numbers better and how to move the voters. Given the Hamilton County Democratic Party didn’t even bother to field candidates in Westfield, Carmel or Fishers mayors’ elections in 2019, I have doubts about that operation.

  11. There HAVE to be some Republicans who are above being “magas” who would like to see their former party as an economically conservative but socially sensitive party. Smart Dems like Sheila and anyone reading her blog should be active in pointing out the candidates who want to serve their constituents instead of an immoral, ignorant, self-agrandizing criminal.

  12. Mark, pollsters have long ago made adjustments to address the land line problem. In 2018, the polls proved extremely accurate.

    I wouldn’t trust that Young-McDermott poll since the polls was done by McDermott’s campaign. If I were Todd Young, I’d just campaign on the slogan “At Least I’m Not Mike Braun.” Young at his worst is a 1000 times better than Braun.

  13. ReCenter Indiana is a new start-up to promote bipartisan platforms and open civic discussion. Given my progressive conservative instincts (Center Democrat), this new initiative promises to be a far better home for my political way of thinking. ReCenter Indiana is so new I have not as yet found even a website. However, I do like today’s post by Sheila and wish to support a promising Democrat run in District 24.

  14. YES! YES! YES! I’m volunteering for Joey Mayer & donating to her campaign. It is an uphill battle, but as others have stated, this year the battle ground is different. The Republican Supermajority at the statehouse decided to strip women of their personal autonomy. That’s a game changer. They just pissed of over half of their electorate. I’m going door to door for Joey & I keep hearing the same comments from women, doctors, nurses & other healthcare professionals & professionals in social work, “they have no idea what they have done. This will be a disaster.” From The WHO “ When people with unintended pregnancies face barriers to attaining safe, timely, affordable, geographically reachable, respectful and non-discriminatory abortion, they often resort to unsafe abortion.” I have met Dr.’s here in our district 24 that have seen in their ER women in dire conditions due to unsafe abortions. This will only get worse with the Republican rushed special session to pass SB1. Indiana only ranks in the top numbers when is comes to bad things like infant mortality, maternal mortality, evictions, pollution & many more. How are these issues not part of being pro-life? Why don’t we care about the evicted families with children? Indiana has the easiest, fastest, cheapest eviction laws. Indy Star has been telling the personal stories of evicted families in Indianapolis. It is heartbreaking. Women not able to find childcare after giving birth so they cannot return to work and then get evicted. In that article, solutions were outlined by a report from researchers at IUPUI’s community information system titled SAVI. They supported state laws that prevent retaliatory evictions and provide more tenant rights to enforce habitability standards, such as Senate Bill 230, which was proposed by Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, last legislative session but was killed in committee. In Indiana you can file an eviction when the tenant is 10 days late. Also noted, these are not mom & pop landlords evicting, they are corporate investors that don’t reside in our state. But we are the first state to pass a new law banning abortion. That special session to pass this law cost taxpayers $250,000! But your supposed to take your check & think they are working for you. We’ve got to show up & Vote Blue! It is the only reasonable really & truly good for ALL LIVES choice.

  15. For those of you that have the energy and time to help a local Dem candidate here is one small thing you can do :

    Take voter registration applications and/or hand out a small card or piece of paper that lists the voter registration website to people that have never before registered to vote. Anything we can do to make it easier for them to vote will help.

  16. Nancy – great tip.

    More important than calling on DEMs? Independents/uncommitteds and non-MAGA GOPers…

  17. Vernon, my answer to your question –

    “What I still don’t fully understand is why people like Donna Shaibley exist in politics.”

    Rural people have been brainwashed and indoctrinated by radical right wing media – especially fox (can’t bear to capitalize the word). Many have their tvs turned on to fox for the entire time they are at home. They are continuously fed the message that Democrats are the truly awful people that are ruining our country and causing all of the anger, hatred and division. They actually end up believing that Dems will take away their guns, destroy their white supremacy by bringing in as many illegal immigrants as possible and force the hard-working republicans to financially support them. Voting for any Democrat would amount to voting against their own interests. Those republicans want to be told what to think and do because they are too lazy to actually have to think for themselves.

    As I’ve mentioned before, if Satan ran for office as a republican they would vote for him over a Democrat that they actually like and respect.

  18. Paul Ogden, go to her website. Joey is a woman. I appreciate your knowledge of the numbers. I too have studied the numbers in the last 2 races for House District 24. I worked on the campaign for Naomi Bechtold in her most recent race in 2020 for the seat that she lost getting 41.9% of the vote. I still hear from many Democrats as I canvas that they are encouraged by seeing a strong team out canvasing for Joey. It is not uncommon for a rural Democrat to feel as if they might be the only Democrat. It only takes a short drive to find still many Trump flags flying. It can feel intimidating for a Democrat surrounded by very outspoken Republican neighbors. I did hear more than a few times that people were definitely going to vote for her, but they didn’t want a yard sign because they didn’t want to stir things up with their relationships with their Republican neighbors. I can assure you that Joey’s campaign is targeted and knows the votes that are within reach this year differently than any other. Historical data without context is worthless. A 50 year precedent has been overturned. Women who are of age to vote that have never known any other way than full personal autonomy are now mad as hell. This race and many others are winnable. Any seat we can flip in Indiana General Assembly is a WIN! This is a long game. As momentum grows more people will see the odds of winning even in heavily gerrymandered districts is attainable. We can always find cracks. Let’s lift up these candidates that are running to flip these districts.

  19. I wish the state DEM organization would do more than lip service to support the candidates running in local races. I get all kinds of media messages about the need for qualified candidates, especially in down-ballot races, all over the state. But I see no evidence of any active support of those brave souls who step up other than lip service from state leadership. Put money where your mouth is. Door-to-door conversations are time consuming and demanding. Mailers and media drops are very expensive.

    Joey Mayer is my niece (full disclosure) so I know how committed and knowledgeable she is. I have and will continue to support her candidacy. She will always try to educate herself about any issue, weigh the consequences of legislation and vote accordingly as it would affect all of the constituents in her district. I cannot say the same about most of the current legislators in the General Assembly who seem to turn a deaf ear to constituents who cannot come up with big bucks for their campaign war chests or promise future lucrative contacts.

    I will be urging all of my neighbors to Vote In November. Many are young homeowners/renters who may not remember to update a registration or even register at all. Take advantage to every opportunity to urge everyone eligible to vote. If they ask for advice on how to do it, put them in touch with the website to verify/update an existing registration or register for the first time in Indiana. Please feel free to share the link.

  20. Destiny Wells is Democratic candidate for IN Secretary of State and says, ‘Indiana Is a Purple State With a Turnout Problem’. She is awesome!!! See her website here:

    FYI, her Republican opponent is an election denier!

    All of our state/local candidates need volunteers and donations to help them reach more voters. Please help, however you can! And Joey — yes, she is awesome, too!!! 💙

  21. I’m donating funds to Joey Mayer’s campaign and hope everyone else here will donate too. This district is winnable if worked, and Joey is working her heart out with help of those she’s impressed over the years with her volunteerism and business savvy.

    Thank you Sheila for taking notice and sharing the news of her efforts.

  22. My husband and I are literally moving to District 24 this month, just in time to vote BLUE. Thank you for the heads up! And I will see what I can do to volunteer for her. Very excited about the possibilities!

  23. Anne, the shift did not happen overnight, but has been building for some decades, actually. People have their inborn biases, and
    are led by these, even incrementally, into stronger, or more toxic positions as they default to the biases, imho. Then someone comes
    along who inflames their fears and anxieties (the “job” of a demagogue) and these folks seem to come “out of nowhere.” The Republican
    party has been feeding “antediluvian bullshit” to its constituents since at least Nixon, certainly, on steroids, with Reagan.
    From the home of DeathSantis, I wish you good luck! We will need it here, to get rid of worse than useless Rubio, and DeathSantis
    himself. I read, a while ago, that the Nat’l Dems were not going to put money into what they saw as a couple of futile races. I hope they
    change their often stupid minds.

  24. I am excited about Joey and several other candidates the Democrats have running for the Stare Senate and House. In southwest Indiana we have a great candidate, Jeff Hill who is opposing Mark Messmer who is on the outs with his own party over campaign donations that came through straw donors for the gaming industry. Mr. Hill has the support of southern Indiana and his momentum gives him the best opportunity Senate District 48 has had to change. I am in the same situation running for House District 63. My message of pro-choice, pro-public education and teachers along with opposing a wasteful new terrain highway is making my campaign successful. Mr. Hill and I both need the support of people state-wide that want change in the Statehouse. http://www.kendallfor63

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