Belinda Drake’s campaign for state Senate was a long shot in the conservative District 32, but election night was still special.
Drake’s family traveled from Gary to be with her, and she spent time with volunteers and the county Democratic Party, along with her now-fiancée.
“I was just extremely appreciative for family and overwhelmed with the possibilities of the outcome,” she said.
Drake lost that night to Republican incumbent Aaron Freeman by 18 points, and one of Marion County’s rising Democrats — a 35-year-old gay Black woman — had to step back and figure out what should come next.
For now, it’s healing.
Drake’s political tour has spanned three campaigns in a little less than two years.
She was first a candidate for the Indianapolis City-County Council in 2019, but Drake wasn’t allowed to run as a Democrat in the primary because the party said she hadn’t voted in a Democratic primary before, which is one of the requirements for the slating process. Drake tried to run as a write-in candidate but didn’t get enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
Drake turned her sights to the Statehouse after that, first in a brief campaign for the House of Representatives and then as a candidate for Senate.
“Running for office this year, I gave everything I had to give,” she said. “I’m emotionally and mentally 100%, but physically my body is still recovering.”
Drake is a former college basketball player — she’s had surgery on both feet — and talks about politics in sports terms. She likes to say you can’t win the next game if you’re still thinking about the one you just lost, which is part of why she said she is the “complete opposite of discouraged.”
Drake, a family case manager at Family and Community Solutions, said the issues her campaign focused on — marijuana legalization, an increased minimum wage and other progressive stances that often get squashed in Indiana — got the attention of people in District 32. Her 18-point defeat was the closest margin of defeat for a Democrat since at least 2004.
She’s still committed to trying to clear a path for Black people in the LGBTQ community to have representation in government.
As for another run at office, Drake didn’t commit one way or the other but said she would have to consider it if she felt God was calling her in that direction and the people in her community wanted her to.
People within the Democratic Party in Indiana want Drake to eventually run for office again.
Arielle Brandy, president of Indiana Young Democrats, which Drake is a part of, said she would encourage Drake to run again if that’s what Drake wants to do.
Brandy commended Drake for her efforts in District 32 and for being a voice in politics for Black queer people.
“I hope she continues to do that work,” Brandy said.
Leigh Riley Evans, who ran for a seat on the city-county council at the same time as Drake, said she hopes Drake considers running for office again, whether that’s at the local or state level.
“She’s been very determined and just sincere in her approach to supporting the community,” said Evans, who spoke at Drake’s campaign kickoff for the House of Representatives in December 2019. “… I think she has a voice that needs to be heard.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.