Democratic Women's Caucus Split on Prosecutor Candidates


  • Mar 2, 2018

Members of Monroe County's Democratic Women's Caucus on Friday offered political endorsements to 13 of the 15 women seeking the group's support.

But the two vying for the Democratic nomination in the contested primary race for Monroe Country prosecutor did not receive the political action committee's coveted endorsement because neither woman received two-thirds of the vote, which is required to get one.

Support for candidates Erika Oliphant and Margie Rice was visibly split between the members of the liberal women's political action group, causing a palpable unease in the crowded, standing-room-only meeting at the Village Deli.

The caucus gets behind progressive women who support unrestricted reproductive rights. "The purpose of our organization is to fund, inspire, recruit, support, and train progressive, pro-choice Democratic women to increase the numbers of women in the electoral process and in elected and appointed positions," its website states.

The prosecutor's race is between three Democratic candidates: attorney Matthew Schulz, deputy prosecutor Oliphant and Rice, a lawyer in the county attorneys office.

It's the only race in the May 8 Democratic primary with two women — both members of the local women's caucus — seeking the same office.

A similar situation presented itself in 2016, when Democrats Holly Harvey and Darcie Fawcett were running for Monroe Circuit Court judge. Democratic Women's Caucus members did not give either candidate two-thirds of the vote, so no endorsement was given in that race, either.

Steering committee chairwoman Amy Swain, a candidate herself this year for state representative in Indiana House District 62, said the caucus endorsement committee interviewed all of the candidates and confirmed they met requirements to be recommended to the membership for endorsement.

But in the contested prosecutor's race, neither Oliphant nor Rice — whose campaign chairwoman is Charlotte Zietlow, a founding member of the caucus in 2004 — got recommended for endorsement. During Friday's breakfast meeting, caucus vice chairwoman Carolyn VandeWiele said, "there were enough valid concerns about the process that we decided we are not going to make recommendations," adding, "I can't go into concerns or rumors of what happened."

She advised members to vote for the candidates of their choice, recommendation or not. "All of these women," she said, "deserve to be on the ballot."

About 130 people, mostly women, attended the meeting. Paper ballots were distributed to members who were current on their $20 annual dues, and 108 voted, Swain said.