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New state Democratic chairman hopes to make gains

INDIANAPOLIS – The new head of the Indiana Democratic Party focused on rebuilding the organization during his first meeting with reporters Friday.

John Zody was elected a week ago to the post, taking over for longtime chairman Dan Parker.

He has worked at all levels of the party, as well as in state and federal government supporting Democratic officeholders. He grew up in Morgan County and lives in Monroe County.

“Indiana will elect Democrats if they prove they have that common-sense approach,” he said.

Zody declined to say the party was at an all-time low, pointing to the success of electing U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz last year.

But Republicans captured a supermajority in the Indiana House and retained the governor’s office.

There are no elections this year, which gives Zody an opportunity to build the base and raise funds before 2014.

“We may be outspent, but we are strong on the ground,” he said.

Zody said he believes there are opportunities in the Statehouse next year. This includes picking up seats in the House or Senate, or maybe capturing one of the three statewide offices up for election.

“You never count yourself out,” he said, while declining to identify any specific goals other than to show gains.

Zody also declined to comment on the current intra-party fight about Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s income-tax-cut proposal, other than to say, “I think the fact that our governor is having some issues with his own caucus is telling.”

House Democrat Leader Scott Pelath said Zody’s success will come down to message.

“If Democrats are the pragmatic, problem-solving party that stands for the middle class, that’s what Hoosiers care about over the long term,” he said. “We’re at this spot right now because of maps and because of the winds of national politics. It’s not going to last in Indiana forever.”