Replacing Julia Carson (and Crashing the Gates)
by Vox Populi, Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 07:09:29 AM EST
This is cross-posted from www.blueindiana.net. In December, Congresswoman Julia Carson died, leaving an open seat. This coming Saturday, the precinct committeepersons from the district are going caucus to select the candidate for a special election to be held on March 11. Candidate filing in Indiana closes on February 12, and the precinct committeepersons will assemble again in February to endorse a candidate for the primary in May.
Last night, the candidates had their one and only public forum before the coming caucus. The front-runner by far is Andre Carson, the former congresswoman's grandson. Please check out the links to learn more about the five major candidates in the race. This is a primary where the blogosphere can have a great impact if we get behind one candidate.
So I just got home from the 7th District Democratic candidate forum, which featured a whole host of candidates from different regions, races, genders, and even political philosophies. Present were State Representatives Carolene Mays, David Orentlicher, and and Gregory Porter; Indianapolis City County Councilors Joanne Sanders and Andre Carson; Attorney Randle Pollard; Marion County Treasurer Michael Rodman; and former Indiana State Health Commissioner Woodrow Myers.
I think the first and most important thing to point out is that we have a strong field of candidates. I went into the forum not knowing what to expect (including the fact that it was apparently oriented to the gay community--I just thought it was odd how the candidates were all talking about gay issues), and left with positive and negative impressions of different candidates, for different reasons.
Of the serious contenders for the seat, State Representative David Orentlicher was the first to give his opening statement, video of which can be found below. I apologize in advance for the low quality of the video throughout this diary, but it gets the point across.
Primarily, David O. focused on the need to restore moral leadership to Washington, that we have a "disgraceful" history when it comes to dealing with discrimination and equal rights. He wants to provide universal health care and will work as hard as he does as a state legislator. His wife Judy worked the room and passed out a letter with some of his issue positions. Key thing: David Orentlicher is leading on property tax reform. That's a huge issue in Indianapolis.
Next up was State Representative Carolene Mays. She showed up and admitted to the audience that she was warned she would find few friends at the event (that was an understatement). She defended her vote in favor of an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions. She had the distinction of giving the longest opening statement of all the candidates:
Later in the Question and Answer session, Marion County Auditor Billie Breaux gave Ms. Mays a very public spanking. She said, "Representative Mays, I was looking at the information available on Project Vote Smart, and you have a very conservative voting record." Breaux went on to detail Ms. Mays' ratings on gay rights, abortion rights and several other issues. Rep. Mays retorted that she is "100% pro-choice" and that Vote Smart was wrong about her record and she was working to correct it. She kept hitting on the electability factor, reminding us several times that she was the highest vote getter in her district for any office in 2004 and 2006.
Ms. Mays had to leave the forum early because her daughter had to be picked up and get ready for bed. She was only able to answer a few questions.
Next was Representative Gregory Porter. Mr. Porter is my state representative, but I had never met him. He was hilarious. He was engaging. He talked about his 16 years of experience in state government and his work in the community. He talked about representing the same values Julia Carson represented. He hits issues of poverty, education and health care.
The two City County Councilors were quite late to the event, as their city council meeting started at the same time as the forum. First up was Democratic Minority Leader Joanne Sanders. She talks about how we are all "entitled" to health care, peace, and job security. She views crime as an economic issue and believes in a living wage as a means of reducing crime.
One of the most-awaited moments of the night came when Andre Carson spoke. He started off talking about his opposition to the Iraq War, but said residual troops would likely be necessary. He said that gays and lesbians choose to be the way they are, but he supports gay rights and doesn't care what happens in their bedrooms. He also doesn't support universal health care, preferring universal health insurance because he doesn't believe it's the government's role to be giving health care.
One of the best moments in the forum came when City County Councilor William Oliver, as establishment as establishment gets, asked the candidates to promise not to run in the May primary against the party's candidate. He prefaced his `question' with the statement, "I'm one who hasn't made up his mind." First Rep. Porter and then Councilor Sanders demurred, saying they would decide when the time came. Then Randle Pollard made an impassioned defense of the primary system.
Notice that after Pollard goes off, Michael Rodman says "I'm kind of old fashioned," and that he would support the party's pick. Woody Myers said he was "a new fashioned Democrat" and would make the decision to run in the primary when the time came. Andre Carson too said he would make a decision when the time came, prompting Porter to lighten the mood saying he wanted to change his vote.
Like I said, the forum was quite successful and I think we learned a lot about the candidates. Several of the candidates expressed frustration that this would be the only forum before Saturday's caucus. I spoke with several candidates after the event and they confirmed to me, privately, that they were indeed running in the primary but couldn't very well say so before the caucus.
If you want to see candidate closing statements, you may do so by viewing my YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=VoxPopuli08