I started to document some of my notes from the Stonewall Democrats caucus at the Indiana State Democratic Convention on Saturday while I was waiting on gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson to arrive, but wasn't able to finish before she arrived and the regular convention started.
Long Thompson arrived 20 minutes after the caucus was supposed to have adjourned following a stop at the UAW caucus meeting. The UAW did not endorse the campaign.
I'd never attended a political caucus before and it was a fascinating experience. A few politicians, party officials and candidates dropped by to say hello, with Linda Pence (Attorney General nominee), Ed DeLaney (Candidate in House District 86), Sheila Klinker (State Senator), Joanne Sanders (Indianapolis City-County Council Minority Leader) and others stopping by.
One of the main topics among participants was how the state marriage amendment would affect other gay positive legislation. The other topic was Lt. Governor nominee Rep Dennie Oxley. Oxley was the sole House Democrat vote in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions last year. The amendment died in committee.
While the first topic was an interesting discussion, the second was the main issue of concern to everyone at the caucus prompting one attendee to comment, "If we don't ameliorate the Oxley issue we can't support the campaign. She's the most progressive candidate on our issues. She's a dream candidate. We'll have to decide whether to sit this race out."
During the wait for Long Thompson's arrival, the conversation continued about the community's dissatisfaction with Oxley and how that balanced against the need for a Democratic governor. "A half loaf is better than no loaf" seemed to be the prevailing theme.
One lesbian attendee told the group that she had questioned Oxley the night before about his vote on SJR-7, the proposed amendment. "He told me he had to vote the way his constituents wanted," she said.
"I love JLT and supported her in the primary but it's important to remember Julia Carson cast a vote against the war even though most of her constituency would be for it," replied another caucus-goer. "Sometimes you just have to do what's right."
Long Thompson opened with talk about getting Indiana back on track and continued on to talk about civil rights. "No matter what caucus you talk to, civil rights are a top priority. For some caucuses it becomes more important. We don't need more people who are on the wrong track when it comes to interpreting the Constitution and what God wants," she said. "You will have a friend in the Governor's office every hour of the day."
Long Thompson continued with a small jab at Mitch Daniels that got laughs and applause, "It will be my privilege for me to talk to you. The governor's residence will be open to you. I'd be willing to stay there unlike the current governor!"
When she introduced Rep Oxley, he didn't get the same standing ovation Long Thompson had received. He started out talking about the economy and segued into his experience and his vote on SJR-7.
"Pat Bauer is one of my closest friends and one of my greatest political allies. He's done great things and I worked with him on a daily basis to keep bad stuff from coming to the floor of the General Assembly for votes," Oxley told the audience before moving on to the amendment.
"I want to talk to you about SJR-7. I voted for SJR-7. I want to talk to you about that. I voted that way because of the district I represent. They overwhelmingly have a view about this issue. I believe representative government means you vote the way your constituents want you to vote."
He continued, "The role of Lt Governor is a whole lot different. My primary job - I will commit to you today - my priority on Day One is to be the #1 cheerleader and the person who drives Jill Long Thompson's agenda thru the Assembly. We desperately need change and Jill Long Thompson is the one person who will effect change."
Oxley also pointed out his vote in favor of hate crimes legislation.
During the Q&A that followed, all of the comments focused on Oxley's record in the Statehouse. Both Long Thompson and Oxley assured the group that he would support her LGBT inclusive agenda even if he were somehow elevated unexpectedly to the higher office.
Long Thompson closed the appearance with a reminder of how adamantly anti-gay the Indiana Republican party is.
"One last thing... For a Democrat to win in Indiana is a tough task." she said. "The sooner you're on board the easier it is for us to accomplish this task. The easier you can make the process the easier you'll have a governor and lieutenant governor who are supportive of you."
At least one attendee took video of Long Thompson and Oxley's appearance and I hope to get a copy soon.