Editor's note: A previous version of this article had Jonathan Jones listed as a former Purdue student and John Meyers as a long time city councilor.
After yesterday’s municipal election, several Republican-held council seats were flipped to their Democratic opponents. Come January, the formerly all-male council will feature eight Democrats and one Republican.
Two women, Shannon Kang (D) of District 3 and Kathy Parker (D) of District 5, unseated their incumbent opponents. Parker beat out John Meyers (R) 742-627 and Kang beat out Indiana University medical student Jonathan Jones (R) 71-40.
At-large candidate James Blanco (D) was the other newcomer to unseat an incumbent. Blanco beat Steve Dietrich (R) 1,844 to 1,579.
The preparation and mentorship for new candidates contributed to the results, said Chair of the Tippecanoe County Democrats Heather Maddox. After the 2016 election, Maddox said improvements needed to be made specifically in preparing new candidates for their campaigns.
“I made, kind of, a standalone workshop,” she said. “It was called ‘How to run for office’ and what it did is it went through ... the steps (one) would take. From how you go about deciding what you want to run for, what you should do to prepare for that ... developing your message, how to reach voters, paperwork, that sort of thing.”
In the lead-up to the 2018 elections, Maddox held several workshops and eventually developed a “good crop of candidates.”
This year though, when Maddox started the programs again for the municipal elections, turnout was low. So low, she said, that the workshops were discontinued. Despite that, Democrats inexperienced in campaigning were still on the ballot box for the city council.
Maddox eventually learned that not only were some of these candidates receiving mentorship, but they were also learning from the candidates that attended the workshops in 2018.
“It was actually cool to see because the things that you’ve known and the things that you’ve taught people, they go on ... and they’re now utilizing them to help others,” Maddox said.
The most notable candidate to receive this mentorship, Maddox said, was Kang, a sophomore student who will represent the district encompassing all of Purdue and her fellow students within.
It had started with current at-large councilor David Sanders (D), who had experience working with Kang on the Student Sustainability Council at Purdue during his work on the plastic straw resolution.
“She came forward because she had an authentic interest in the power of government to do good for the people of West Lafayette,” Sanders said.
Kang met with Sanders several times to go over the general description of the job of city councilor, paperwork and, eventually, filing to run for office with the other Democratic candidates.
Ilana Stonebraker, Tippecanoe County councilor, was the door-opener, Kang said.
“She connected me with the right people and it made my life a lot easier, and she showed me campaign etiquette and what to do, what not to do, what to post, what not to post,” Kang said. “She taught me how to door-knock. So, truly very grateful for that.”
Kang also mentioned that fellow councilor-elect Parker and City Clerk Sana Booker were her “gal pals.”
“We’re a trio,” Kang said. “They’re great women.”
Immediately after learning of her victory last night at the Tippecanoe County Building, Kang was near speechless.
“It’s really overwhelming,” Kang said. “The support has been insane. I mean, I never thought I would get so much support from this city, and it just makes me fall in love with the city and want to work for the city so much more.”