Today's Indianapolis Star had a surprise endorsement that is a direct slap in the face of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). In the special election to replace deceased Congresswoman Julia Carson (D), the Star has endorsed Republican Jon Elrod over Congresswoman Carson's grandson, Andre Carson.
Regular readers will remember that I'm not a big Carson fan. I think he got his position on the ticket solely through nepotism. Rep Carson's funeral was used a political grandstand as current members of Congress told the crowd that Julia told them to "Send my seed!" to replace her. The DCCC not only endorsed Carson for the special election, they've taken the extra step of endorsing him for the primary election in May.
The Star, however, calls Carson "the fourth best-qualified Democratic candidate in the May primary" after my personal choice, state representative David Orentlicher, homophobic state legislator Carolene Mays, and former state health commissioner Woody Myers.
Many Hoosier democrats are furious with the national party for stepping into a primary race on behalf of a candidate who has yet to win a contested election.
Carson was appointed to the Indianapolis City-County Council when his grandmother's cohorts ousted another councilor for moving outside of his district - literally across the street. (Doh!) While other candidates like Mary Ann Sullivan were shut out of the replacement possibilities, Carson was anointed via democratic caucus to replace the ousted councilor. Even though the deadline to run in the election had passed, party insiders allowed Carson's name to replace the old councilor on the November ballot; Carson was unopposed.
The severity of his grandmother's illness was kept a secret from Indianapolis voters and while the Congresswoman was clearly failing in the last election, the Star didn't waver from it's constant support of her campaigns. While his grandmother withered, Carson worked hard to build up his support in the black democratic community with Julia pulling strings and calling in favors till the very end. When the caucus met again to choose the candidate for the special election, guess who won the vote?
No candidate who is related to the former office holder has won a special election since the start of this session of Congress. Apparently, I'm not the only voter sick of the nepotism that seems to have infected politics like a bad STD. For the Star to choose Elrod over Carson should signal a major change in the outcome of the special election.
The DCCC's primary endorsement is what could doom Carson's campaign. Several prominent (and ordinary!) local democrats happen to favor one of the three infinitely more qualified candidates. Why the national committee would choose to endorse someone who hasn't won a single contested election yet is a mystery - unless you fall back to the favors his grandmother called in as she lay dying. But riddle me this... If you support one of the other candidates in the primary election, would you want to vote for Carson in the special and strengthen his chances during the primary two months later?
After all, if Carson loses to Elrod, Indianapolis democrats will come out in droves to vote in November to put the seat back firmly in democratic hands. Those hands would, of course, be a different democrat's hands. If Carson loses to Elrod, put a fork in him; he's done. Who would want to re-nominate a candidate who lost to a republican in Indiana's democratic stronghold - no matter what the DCCC thinks? The thinking seems to be: "What's a few months of letting a republican warm the seat, when it ensures a democrat will take it in the fall just in time for a democratic president?".
In talking with fellow democrat and independent LGBT voters here in Indianapolis, many are planning to either vote for Elrod or sit out the election altogether. Both Elrod and Carson are gay friendly although the argument can certainly be made that Elrod's republican ties would help to increase the predominantly anti-gay republican strength in Congress.
Personally, although Jon is a friend of mine, I'm not sure I can stomach voting to send a republican to Congress. While I appreciate that Jon is gay friendly, I can't reconcile myself with his stances on other issues like a woman's right to choose or social security. My other severe turn-off for Elrod? Local political blogs trying to make hay about Carson's faith. Carson, who is a muslim, is having to fend off "If you vote for Carson, the terrorists win!" xenophobic bullshit that would make George Bush proud. Sadly, two of the biggest offenders are gay political blogger Gary Welsh and the Indiana Word, Indianapolis's gay bar rag. [PDF warning on the Word link]
More than likely for the first time since I've been able, I just won't vote. I'm betting a lot of others feel the same way. Indianapolis may be in for a surprise next Tuesday.
From the Star's endorsement:
Voters in Indiana's 7th congressional district will have three opportunities this year to decide who will replace Rep. Julia Carson, who died in December. The first chance, which comes Tuesday in a special election, may pose the most difficult choice because of the relative inexperience of the two major-party candidates.
Democrat Andre Carson, the late congresswoman's grandson, has served barely six months in public office. He was appointed to the City-County Council last year and ran unopposed for that seat in November.
Democratic insiders in January pushed Carson ahead of stronger candidates in slating him for the special election. In fact, Carson likely will be only the fourth best-qualified Democratic candidate in the May primary, behind state Reps. Carolene Mays and David Orentlicher and former state health commissioner Woody Myers.
In the special election, The Star recommends Elrod over Carson and Shepard. It's early in Elrod's career to be chasing a seat in Congress, but he's better prepared for the job at this point than his Democratic opponent.
Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, Democratic voters should eagerly look forward to the May primary, when Mays, Myers and Orentlicher lead a deep and talented field.
If you'd like to make a donation to Rep Orentlicher's primary campaign, it would be greatly appreciated.