Indianapolis’ largest GLBT news publication, The Word, has turned its back on incumbent Rep. Julia Carson (D) and endorsed her openly gay Democratic primary opponent, Kris Kiser. Citing Kiser’s age and vitality in comparison to Carson’s personal health and long-time service, The Word believes the Democratic GLBT community should abandon Carson and support new-comer Kiser. In endorsing Kiser in its March edition, The Word said:
[W]hile this newspaper would be remiss were we not to thank (Carson) for all her support and attendance at our events over the years, we feel the time has arrived for a new face, a new spirit and a young congressman who is both alert to the issues, and has the health and vitality to actually be present for votes—not to mention being out in our community . . . A word here about Julia Carson for those wondering about our about-face; age and vitality, as well as a total understanding of our issues are the reasons. While we believe as Kris himself said, “I have a genuine respect for the incumbent and her many years of dedicated service to Hoosiers . . . I share her values of inclusion and believe in a true democracy, for inclusion of all citizens regardless of our colour, sexual orientation or economic condition . . .” we also feel that Rep. Carson’s personal health and length of service both call out for a new voice to represent Marion County.
The Word has very directed criticism at those within the Democratic Party “who are scheming to defeat him.” The Word said, “These include old guard ‘political machine’ types who have reacted less-than-warmly to Kris and his candidacy, and those who feel that an openly-gay candidate has no place running for office in the heartland.” The so-called old guard has a little different take on it.
Kiser, whose campaign purchased a full-page ad in the March edition of The Word, has spent virtually his entire adult career living and working in Washington, D.C. first as a legislative staffer and then as a lobbyist for large business concerns. He returned to his roots in Indiana a little more than a year ago “to see the lay of the land for his congressional run” as The Word puts it. That smacks as arrogance in the minds of many local Democrats who prefer a candidate who has been active in the community and the party, and who is willing to wait their turn when Carson decides on her own to retire.
The GLBT community was delighted by the local efforts Carson made to convince Democratic city-county councilors to support the HRO despite her duties in D.C. She publicly tongue-lashed those who opposed gay civil rights in her own party in the face of heavy opposition from the area’s African-American clergy.
In an interview with The Word, Kiser said, “I hope to be a congressman who happens to be gay, not the other way around, but I also plan to be an outspoken proponent for issues of importance to the community.” Critics would note, however, that Kiser, unlike Carson, was anything but outspoken during the fight for passage of the HRO in Indianapolis last year. In fact, it is not apparent that Kiser did anything publicly to support the passage of the HRO, even though he was living in the community and not actively engaged in a full-time job. Very few persons in the community knew anything about Kiser before he launched his campaign to unseat Carson. One can't help but wonder if The Word would have noticed him had he not purchased ad space in its newspaper.
Advance Indiana has also learned from a reliable source that the person Kiser has chosen to manage his campaign is not held in high favor with many Democratic leaders because of his past involvement in other campaigns, notably a congressional campaign in northern Indiana (per Ted's correction).
The Word’s endorsement of Kiser is likely to have little impact within the GLBT community. Carson’s support within Democratic members of the GLBT community is pretty rock solid, and he will have little success chipping away at her support. An outsider like Kiser will be treated like the outsider he is and looked upon negatively for challenging an incumbent member well known for her ability to turn out the party’s base in general elections. If Ann Delaney could only manage 38% of the primary vote in her race against Carson in 1996 with a lot of party support and big bucks behind her, Kiser will be doing good to get 20% of the vote. His candidacy does, however, make what otherwise would have been a boring primary race into one that will generate some interest.
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