How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congressional District

As most of you are aware, Congresswoman Julia Carson succumbed to a battle with lung cancer in December.  Indiana's 7th Congressional District is the second most Democratic in the state, and includes most of the largest and capital city, Indianapolis-Marion County.  Several well-qualified Democrats entered the race, along with the Congresswoman's grandson, freshman City Councilor Andre Carson.  A full rundown on the major candidates seeking to replace Mrs. Carson can be found on my recent BlueIndiana diary.

At Julia Carson's funeral, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Andre Carson for Congress.  They essentially turned her funeral into an Andre for Congress rally.  Immediately after, the Democratic machine, much of which was built up by Mrs. Carson, started lining up behind Andre.  They leaned hard on other Democrats to try and prevent other Democrats from challenging him for the seat.  The machine did see some success, with former Mayor Bart Peterson--probably the most popular Democrat among Indianapolis Democrats--saying he wasn't interested and endorsing Carson.

On January 12, 2008, precinct committee members met in a district-wide caucus to select the Democratic nominee for a Special Election to be held on March 11.  Out of 599 possible voters, 440 showed up to vote.  Only 73% of these "highly engaged" activists bothered to show.  On the first ballot, with 223 votes, Andre Carson was able to claim victory.  223 party insiders made a decision that may affect the political shape of the district for years to come.

I have had the argument with a pro-Andre blogger who believes that precinct committeemen aren't party insiders, that they are the partisan foot soldiers who turn out the vote on Election Day and devote their lives to Democratic politics.  I worked the caucus.  I saw these precinct committee members.  Most of them are old enough to collect Social Security benefits.  I met one who had to be aided by her daughter because she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  I talked with one committee member who wanted to support State Representative David Orentlicher, but told me she was voting for Carson instead so she could "go home early."

In terms of background, there were also claims of dirty politics.  Several of the Democratic candidates who purchased precinct committee member lists from the county party were provided with outdated, incorrect lists.  It is well known that county employees and party employees were actively lobbying committee members on behalf of Carson.  Needless to say, Mr. Carson was one of the candidates who received an accurate, updated list.  

The Party did not take the time to listen to its voters.  Andre Carson is a blank slate.  At the lone candidate forum, he managed to say there may need to be residual troops left in Iraq, that being gay is a choice, and that he doesn't believe in Universal Health Care.  The Republicans have nominated a pro-choice, gay-friendly, 30-year-old moderate as their candidate.  He is smart, likeable, and was able to defeat State Representative Ed Mahern, a Democratic leader and architect of Indiana's 2001/2002 redistricting plan.  That was in a solidly Democratic district in a Democratic wave year, 2006.  Jon Elrod is a Republican that moderate and anti-nepotism Democrats will vote for over Mr. Carson, who has served just 4 months on the City County Council.

In 2007, our Democratic mayor and several Democratic city councilors lost their quest for reelection and city government flipped to the Republican Party.  This was party due to the tax issue, but also because of increasing corruption and incompetence in the party leadership.  By nominating Andre Carson, the insiders showed they didn't learn their lesson from last November.

State Representative Carolene Mays, one of the candidates in the caucus, released a poll that showed Carson in a dead heat with Jon Elrod.  Skeptics charge that Julia also polled in "dead heats" when she ran.  Republicans never supported her, but she was able to be the candidate of a unified Democratic Party to victory.  We all loved Julia.  But Andre will not retain that loyalty.  A lot of Democrats, especially those outside Center Township (the physical center and most urban area of the district), are supporting other candidates and truly believe Andre is not qualified for the job.  Many of these voters, me included, are either skipping out of the Special Election or supporting Jon Elrod for the seat and getting behind another candidate for the May primary.

On March 11, a normally safe-Democratic seat will either go to the Republicans, or be won by a blank-slate Democrat by a smaller-than-normal margin.  Either way, our party failed us, and until we can crash the gates, they will continue to do so.  For now, we focus on the May primary and hope for a defeat of the Democratic machine, and a victory for a progressive with a record.

Tags: Andre Carson, Crashing the Gates, IN-7 (all tags)



Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

That's an unfortunate outcome.  The only solution is for more and more activists like yourself to get personally involved and kick the hacks out.  Best of luck.

by Steve M 2008-01-13 03:37PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

It will be a tough fight.  What's funny is you're likely to be the only one to comment in this thread. lol

by Vox Populi 2008-01-13 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

What a tremendous failure by the Democrats.  We have to remember, before we attack Republicans, that the establishment Democrats are the reason we are the situation we are.

And I just proved you wrong. :)

by Sean Fitzpatrick 2008-01-13 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

You bring up an excellent point that status quo Democrats are our first enemy, even before Republicans.  And thanks for proving me wrong. ;)

by Vox Populi 2008-01-13 04:05PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

Also, all politics is local.  This is just one Congressional Race, but it represents everything that is wrong with the Democratic party.  The establishment is afraid to rock the boat because if there is one thing that transcends partisanship, it is the fear of reform.

Good luck in your fight against the status quo.

by Sean Fitzpatrick 2008-01-13 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress


by sepulvedaj3 2008-01-13 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

I hope you feel guilty, shamelessly begging for comments like this.  But it worked!

by Steve M 2008-01-13 04:07PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

There's a reason I'm in politics ;)

by Vox Populi 2008-01-13 04:12PM | 0 recs
Looks like your candidate lost,

and so you're whining.  Why does that make your candidate better?

What's the D rating of this district?  If its less than D+5, I'd be surprised.  I'd also be shocked if it went R in this climate.

by dataguy 2008-01-13 05:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Looks like your candidate lost,

My candidate did lose, as did several other qualified candidates.  Why are they better?  Because they have records, they have history in the district, etc.

I really can't stand you based on your racist, xenophobic rants in the past, so please stay out of my diaries.  Thanks.

by Vox Populi 2008-01-13 05:26PM | 0 recs
Gosh, sounds like you are taking over

You now run myDD?  I guess that, using the logic you use in your district, if you want to run it, you run it.

or something.

Good luck on March 11.  I really doubt it will go R.  

by dataguy 2008-01-13 05:32PM | 0 recs
And as far as racism goes

sounds like you little white boys of privilege don't like the insiders, probably all of whom are black, running their own candidate.

i know that you like the African Americans when they stay humble.  Sometimes they don't.

Too bad for you.

You sound like you have a little problem with a black candidate.  Isn't that the case?  I was gonna be polite, but since you are a jerk, hey, I just wonder.

by dataguy 2008-01-13 05:35PM | 0 recs
Why is this a problem?

OK, the insiders picked their favorite. Why is that a problem?  This is often how it works.   It is neither democratic nor undemocratic, because the representatives of various groups picked a candidate.

People have odd ideas about political parties.  They are gangs, and the gang works by the insiders.  This is reality.  

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

by dataguy 2008-01-13 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Why is this a problem?

The problem is we don't know whether he'll vote like his grandmother.  He has been a councilor for 4 months.  He said being gay is a lifestyle choice, that residual forces will be necessary in Iraq, and that he is against Universal Health Care.

He is no Julia Carson.

by Vox Populi 2008-01-13 05:32PM | 0 recs
Many examples

Mary Bono

Cokie Robert's mother

Jean Carnahan

This is the standard method for replacing someone.  It's not just nepotism.  It's really to honor the person.  

Why is it better or worse?  Yes, there are more capable persons, but since when has ability been a factor in politics?

by dataguy 2008-01-13 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

André Carson is a progressive Democrat, raised and mentored by his very progressive grandmother, Julia Carson. According to National Journal, Congresslady Carson had a more liberal voting record than Barney Frank or Maxine Waters. André Carson is firmly backed by the local Black Democratic elected leaders and many others, including former Congressman Andy Jacobs Jr. Carolyn Kilpatrick of the Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed him too. Checkout

Vox Republicani has been causing waves locally by pimping everywhere for Jon Elrod, a so-called "moderate" Republican who is surprisingly gay-friendly BUT is a Right-To-Lifer and staunch 2nd Amendment supporter, etc, etc, etc Oddly, this GOP Elrod dude has NO opinion on the Iraq War - André is firmly and vocally opposed to it!

by Wilson46201 2008-01-15 05:48PM | 0 recs
Sho' nuff lotta opposition to this brotha

Yep, that's what machines do.  They nominate candidates, marshall support and GOTV.

Gee, sounds like politics to me. Who woulda thunk it?

It appears to me that a black candidate running in a black district is a pretty reasonable idea, but some are opposed to this.

by dataguy 2008-01-16 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Sho' nuff lotta opposition to this brotha

First, it isn't a "black district," it is over 60% white.  Second, I don't have a problem with a black candidate, I was a strong supporter of Julia Carson and there are plenty well-qualified candidates who are black running in the primary.

I have a problem with the nepotism, I have a problem with the innexperience, and I have a problem with the dirty tricks.  Why are you unable to comprehend?

by Vox Populi 2008-01-16 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

Just to be informed, I looked up Andre (insert accent here) Carson's website.  On his issues page, he calls for ending the Iraq war and the end of discrimination and bigotry, naming just 4 categories of people to highlight who he thinks is discriminated against and who should be freed of that discrimination.  That list includes sexual orientation.  Doesn't seem like a right-wing Democrat on his face... sues.shtml

I guess we'll all see when he's elected though.  Nepotism does suck, but sometimes certain businesses run in families.  If your dad's a carpenter, you might be raised on carpentry.  There are plenty of current members of Congress who are products of political families - Gordon Smith, the Salazars, Dodd, Bayh, the Kennedies, the Udalls, Katrina Swett (and her husband Dick - crazy, eh?), etc.  If the people of Indianapolis choose to elect him, more power to them.  If he turns out to suck - then let's get rid of him along with Wynn, Lieberman and Lipinski.

by umcpgreg 2008-01-16 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: How Democrats Just Lost Indiana's 7th Congress

Oh I know what his issues page says, and I know what I saw him say in public.  It may have been a slip, but he clearly said that gay people choose to be the way they are.  He clearly said residual forces may be necessary in Iraq.  And he clearly was one of the least qualified for the seat.

I get your point about dynasties, and I don't have such a problem if they work their way up.  Andre was just elected to the City Council.  Julia was a State Rep, a State Senator, and a township Trustee before becoming a Congresswoman.  He hasn't earned it.

by Vox Populi 2008-01-16 12:25PM | 0 recs


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