By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
David Tharp, a special project manager at the city of Kokomo, looks set to become the next chairman of the Howard County Democratic Party.
Precinct committeemen and vice committeemen will choose the next chair in a caucus vote March 2, but Tharp, 30, is the only candidate to have announced an interest so far.
That fact, combined with Tharp’s experience working on local and statewide Democrat campaigns, make it likely he will take over for current chairman Rick Ward, who is stepping down.
“I think we have a lot to be proud of,” Tharp said Thursday of the local party. “We have an incredibly dynamic mayor, and in tandem with that, we have a strong majority on the city council. That’s a strong base to draw from, and it doesn’t get highlighted enough.”
Trying to increase the party’s presence outside the now larger city boundaries will be the tougher task for Tharp, who served as political director on two statewide campaigns: Vop Osili for Secretary of State in 2010, and John Gregg for Governor last year.
Tharp also worked on Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight’s re-election campaign, and has made a plethora of contacts at Democratic Party organizations across Indiana and beyond.
In a presidential year when local Democrats might have hoped to ride the coattails of successful federal Democratic candidates, there were a total of two Democratic candidates on Howard County ballots last year.
In a letter to the committeemen, Tharp outlined his strategy for growing the party locally, saying Democrats “must embrace a new way of campaigning.”
Efforts, he said, must focus on targeting operations, to ensure Democrats go to the polls on Election Day, along with providing training for candidates.
“Likewise, we must also change the way our local party operates,” he said in the letter. “We must build new coalitions and recruit new activists. Our precinct committee persons, activists and supporters need regular training and need to be empowered to help our party. Party members and supporters must be updated on the latest events and news about the party.”
Tharp said he sees some of the local party’s challenges as a “chicken and egg problem,” where good candidates will run when they feel the local party organization can provide effective support.
A native of Peru, Tharp, 30, graduated from North Miami High School, and moved to Kokomo in 2005. He’s held different political and public sector jobs before settling in last year with the city. He’s a 2009 Indiana University graduate, with a degree in political science. He and his wife Joanna have a son, Watson, born in December.
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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