Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Former Rep. Julia Carson's Son Sam Carson Ready to Enter the Indianapolis Mayor's Race?

The political class is abuzz about the news that Sam Carson, the son of Julia Carson, is apparently going to file to run for the Democratic nomination for Mayor.

Over at Washington Street Politics, the anonymous insider blogger claims this shows "dysfunction" within the Democratic Party. Apparently WSP feels that in a "functional" political party, the party's leaders pick the candidates instead of the party electorate. Of course that's nonsense. Competition is the sign of a healthy political party.

Over at Indy Democrat, Jon Easter suggests that Sam Carson has absolutely no chance against Melina Kennedy. I disagree. Never underestimate the power of a name in politics. Does anyone think Evan Bayh, named Evan Williams, would have succeeded so quickly in politics?

I recently got to know Sam Carson while working with a group working on racial issues in the City. A few months ago I was on a panel with him at Butler University. I found him to be very intelligent and articulate, someone who was very critical of how Mayor Ballard's misplaced priorities that are focused on the city's elites rather than the needs of working men and women. I came away impressed by him. With his last name, Sam Carson would be no easy "out" in a Democratic primary, even if he hasn't attended the right events to build suppoort as Easter points out.

I can somewhat identify with what Melina Kennedy will be facing. In 2000, I ran for House District 94, a district on the northwest side of Indianapolis. It was a district that had been Republican, but in 1998 was won by Democrat Jeb Bardon, a legislator who has moved to a different district. I won slating on my way to face off against Jeb Bardon when Shane Brinkman filed to run against me in the Republican primary.

Shane's mother, Joyce Brinkman, had previously represented the district for years and had just finished a stint as State Treasurer. The Brinkman name had enormous clout in the district, especially among Republicans.

Long story short, but I worked my tail off and won the primary. Although I lost the general election, the work I did helped make my campaign much better for the Fall.

WSP though is gleeful about the news, assuming that stiff competition faced by Melina Kennedy in a primary would mortally wound her for a general election against Ballard. The notion that competitive primaries are bad for the party's eventual nominees is considered gospel within political circles. It is also often wrong. Did Barack Obama losing the Indiana primary to Hillary Clinton, weaken him for general election? No. The highly contested primary energized the Democratic base, bringing in scores of new voters to the party. It also made the Obama campaign in Indiana much stronger going into the general election.

Unlike Indy Democrat, I'm not 100% sure that Melina Kennedy could beat a Carson in a Democratic Primary. But if she does, I assure you she will be a much sharper candidate, and the money she will have spent will be an investment going into the Fall. If Carson wins, then the Democrats still have a good nominee. Either Kennedy or Sam Carson would easily beat Mayor Ballard in a general election. You want to talk dysfunctional, only a dysfunctional campaign would burn through $1.3 million in three off-years leading up to a highly-contested election year.


Cato said...

It is long past time that Indy ran a Black for a senior local government position. I thought we might see Steve Campbell join the fight.

I see this dispute within the Democratic Party as the rich White Dem establishment telling the Black base how to vote. The Dems could have found and supported a Black candidate, but they backed Melina, a water-carrier for Baker & Daniels.

That type of Democratic Party is probably not what the Black community wants.

There's a lot riding on this, as Melina will hire a rich, White group of administrators, while Carson is likely to be, as they used to say, "closer to the soil." All the rich, White, college-educated folks, the vociferous and worried bloggers and lawyers, don't stand at the front of the line with Carson as they do with Melina.

And you're exactly right. A contested primary has no negative consequences for the general.

guy77money said...

The question is would Sam have more back bone then Ballard? Hey I could vote for the guy if he appointed the right people as his underlings. Some how I suspect the rich Democrats would swoop in and take over the city like they did with Ballard. I never got a chance to talk to Ballard at length, but a good friend of mine met him at the beginning of his campaign and told me this guy is not to bright. She was dead on the money! Hey Sam Carson as the mayor of Indy can't be any more of a long shot then Ballard.

Downtown Indy said...

Is it just a way to interject the Carson name into the race, then have him bow out and pledge whatever supporters he collects (who would follow the Carson name anywhere) to Melina?

Cato said...

Paul, you're missing your chance. You should really run in this cycle.

If a Dem gets elected, it will probably be a long time before another Republican is Mayor of Indy.

I would love to see Ballard debate you.

M Theory said...

The Republicans abused the gift The People gave when we ushered in Ballard.

Ballard's campaign did not get him elected. He was elected by the unofficial grassroots work of The People.

Once elected, he promptly broke his promises.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Thanks for the kind comments, but even if I won the primary, (which would be tough because Ballard would be well-funded because he would shake down every gov't contractor he could), I'd still have to carry the Ballard baggage going into the general election in a county that is strongly Democrat. That would be fatal.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Guy, the few times I've met and spent time with Sam Carson, I found him to be a very smart guy. I think he's a lot sharper that Ballard who doesn't appear to ahve much common sense.

He had no problem crticizing Ballard on his misplaced priorities either. I don't think Sam Carson is some sort of R plant.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato, I agree with all but possibly the second to last paragraph. Carson would be an outsider, but I don't think he'd turn over the city to a bunch of people who are unqualified though.

Hoosiers for Indiana said...

Whoever runs against Ballard will win. Peterson had the money, but not the grassroots support. To be honest Peterson was no different than Goldsmith to the Democratic grassroots.

Yes, you could beat Ballard and no, his history wouldn't need to be linked to you. You came out against many of his practices in your blog.

As for Carson, the question is who has control of what was the Julia's political machine.

Barnard said...

Congressman Andre Carson has control of the Carson political machine and he rousingly endorsed Melina today while Sam was sitting in the front row! So much for Sam Carson's chances.