Carson’s Kin Favored in Indiana House Special

Posted January 4, 2008 at 6:13pm

Updated Jan. 7, 2008, 11:57 a.m.

Indiana’s state parties have announced their caucus dates for the special election to fill the seat vacated by the late Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.), but it’s doubtful the contests would determine much when it comes to the future of the seat.

Through Friday, only two Democrats had filed for their caucus on Jan. 12 — though the field could grow — while no Republicans had filed for their event on the next day.

Andre Carson, the late Congresswoman’s grandson and protégé, and Marion County Treasurer Michael Rodman have filed for the Democratic caucus, which brings 560 precinct captains together to vote for their preferred candidate in the special election, which is scheduled for March 11.

Some observers say the field remains small because the Carson legacy is strong enough and news of her Dec. 15 death is so recent that a win for the junior Carson might be inevitable. Although Republican and Democratic candidates can file up to 72 hours before the caucus, some candidates, like former City-County Councilor At-Large Ron Gibson (R), don’t have any plans to run in the special caucus and are waiting to run for a full term in the May 6 primary.

“I think the Congresswoman Julia Carson has a great legacy here in Indianapolis,” Gibson said. “And based on the sympathy factor a lot of that will go towards Andre with little or no objective thought process to it.”

Gibson added he likely will be a candidate in the May primary for a full term in Congress.

Former state Democratic Party Chairman Robin Winston is forgoing the Jan. 12 event as well, saying he would make a decision about running for a full term depending on what happens that day. State Rep. David Orentlicher had not filed with the Democratic Party for the special election, but had filed with the Federal Election Commission, signifying that he might be planning to run in the May primary, but not the special election.

Almost 10 Democrats talked about running for Carson’s seat after she announced she would not seek re-election in late November, including state Reps. Carolene Mays and Greg Porter, former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers and City-County Councilor At-Large Joanne Sanders.

But the late Congresswoman had very strong relationships with precinct chairs — and Andre Carson said he has served in that capacity for more than decade. Andre Carson, who was just elected to a full term on the City-County Council in November, said his decision to run in the special election has been “wrangling” him since his grandmother announced in November that she would not seek re-election.

“It was a decision that I had to make,” Carson said. “And I felt I would be effective as an advocate for the people of the 7th Congressional district.”

It is more than Indiana pols who have been mentioning Carson’s legacy. The Indianapolis Star reported that at the Congresswoman’s funeral, Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) both said they sat with Carson in her final days and heard her say “Andre.” Kilpatrick reportedly said to loud applause that Carson told her, “If you love me, send my seed” to Congress.

For the Republicans, state Rep. Jon Elrod said he plans to file for special caucus on Jan. 13 and if he loses, he won’t run for the full term in the May primary. He said that’s because the Republicans will slate for the special election and the regular primary on the 13th.

“If I’m not slated, I would not run,” he said. “Though I’m quite optimistic that I will win.”

Although the district has elected Carson to six terms and routinely votes for Democratic presidential contenders, an anti-incumbency wave in the state has given Republicans new hope that they could win the district. Two-term Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson (D) was upset by under-funded, little-known Republican Greg Ballard in November.