No one knew what was going to happen at last Saturday’s caucus to select the Democratic candidate in the March 11 Special Congressional Election.
Leading up to the caucus, there was apprehension and uncertainty. Andre Carson supporters I talked to were optimistic, but nervous. They were calling and meeting precinct committeepersons and party activists — the caucus voters — but they weren’t sure of the outcome.
Marion County Treasurer Mike Rodman’s supporters told me their candidate was making inroads among caucus voters.
State Rep. David Orentlicher called caucus voters; even visited them at their homes, as did longshot candidate attorney Randall Pollard.
State Rep. and Recorder Publisher and President Carolene Mays and her supporters worked the phones and sent out written appeals.
So, when Democrats gathered at Shortridge Middle School Saturday morning, the prevailing thought was that it would take several ballots to choose a congressional nominee.
Inside Shortridge, Indy’s media pundits and commentators felt the same way. Andre Carson would lead, we all thought, but he wouldn’t win on the first ballot.
As the votes were counted, a pensive, nervous Andy Jacobs Jr., the late Julia Carson’s political godfather and now grand-godfather to Andre Carson awaited the results. “Won’t they hurry up,” an exasperated Andy said to me.
During her stellar political career, the pundits and experts always underestimated Julia Carson and her organization. With her death, the feeling was that her organization couldn’t do it for Andre.
But, in his first big political test, Andre Carson, like his grandmother, proved the pundits wrong. Carson won on the first ballot.
Carson is now the Democratic candidate in the March 11 special election. He’ll face Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod, the tenacious young campaigner who beat venerable Ed Mahern in 2006 and Libertarian Sean Sheppard.
Meanwhile, Carson’s first priority, and those of his supporters, will be to unify Democrats. Not an easy task.
Many whites are suspicious of Andre’s religion. Andre and his wife are Muslim — regular Muslim, not Nation of Islam. But some white Democrats were nervous and skeptical of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s speaking at Julia Carson’s funeral. Elrod will make Andre’s religion an issue. Andre must address the religion issue and his patriotism and inclusiveness.
Andre’s other challenge is dealing with primary opposition. Three African-Americans (may run) and one white has already said he’ll challenge Carson in the May 6th primary. Orentlicher publicly said he’s challenging Carson, as is Dr. Woodrow Myers, who plans to spend tens of thousands to reintroduce himself to a community that hasn’t seen or heard from him since he was Indiana State Health Commissioner in the late 1980s.
The March 11 and May 6 elections for Congress will be spirited, exciting and risky for our African-American community. So, get registered and get ready to let your voice be heard.
What I’m hearing in the streets
Mayor Greg Ballard announced his primary legislative initiative in his first formal news conference last week signing onto Senate Bill 280, a plan created by Republican state Sen. James Merritt that plagiarizes former Mayor Bart Peterson’s plan to merge all township fire departments into the Indianapolis Fire Department.
For three years, Republican legislators like Merritt fought Peterson’s fire merger plan, but now that he’s gone, Republicans think Peterson’s plan is a good idea. As does Ballard, who said nothing about fire consolidation during his campaign.
The Merritt/Ballard plan, though, has a negative aspect – the complete destruction of township government, eliminating township trustees and placing poor relief under who knows what?
That question mark is there because Merritt and Ballard haven’t a clue how it would work. The Merritt/Ballard plan would create a poor relief fund and the tax levy to fund it, but has no mechanism to administer it. Since Marion County doesn’t administer welfare, Mayor Ballard would have to create an agency to administer poor relief. This from a mayor pledging to cut the budget, not expand it.
Another of the Merritt/Ballard proposals would abolish the nine township small claims courts placing small claims cases under the Superior Courts. Last year, some 80,000 small claims cases were heard in Marion County.
These cases fell outside the regular court system, but the Merritt/Ballard scheme would cram those 80,000 cases into an already overcrowded Superior Court docket, gumming up the works and prolonging the time from arrest to trial; which is already outrageously long.
Last week, Gov. Mitch Daniels called state Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, to consult with him about Daniels’ legislative agenda. Past Indianapolis Mayors have always consulted Democratic and Republican Marion County legislators about their legislative proposals. Unfortunately, Mayor Ballard hasn’t consulted or briefed Marion County’s most senior legislator, Rep. Crawford, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, about any legislation.
And no Ballard sought bill will get a hearing without Crawford’s OK. So, it seems the Merritt/Ballard reorganization plan is as dead as the Colts Super Bowl hopes.
See ‘ya next week.
Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or by e-mail at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.