A question posed to each of the candidates by City-County Councilor Bill Oliver suggests there is a strong likelihood of a contested May primary regardless of who wins this Saturday's slating to become the Democratic candidate in the March 11 special election. Oliver, who describes himself as a "Conrad Democrat" in reference to the late Democratic power broker Larry Conrad, asked the candidates to pledge to support the winner of this Saturday's caucus and not run in the May primary if they lost in caucus voting. On the first run through of the candidates, only Porter and Rodman indicated they would accept the outcome of Saturday's caucus, but after Porter heard Carson say he would not commit to supporting the caucus winner, he said he wanted to change his vote, which drew much laughter from the crowd. Pollard emphasized the importance of the democratic process and suggested Oliver's question was a bit insulting. He said he made the decision to run with great risk to his own professional career, which I took to mean he didn't have the backing of fellow law partner Lacy Johnson, one of the late congresswoman's closest political advisers.
Rep. Mays faced the toughest questions tonight. That was largely due to her vote in support of SJR-7, the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. Mays acknowledged she had little chance of winning the support of those present at tonight's forum because of her vote in support of SJR-7. Mays says she tried to get Republicans to consider an amendment to remove the second part of the amendment which goes beyond the marriage issue but failed in her attempts. Because she believes strongly that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman, she felt she had to support the amendment, albeit flawed. Surprisingly, Marion County Auditor Billie Breaux grilled Mays for having the most conservative record on the panel according to VoteSmart. Mays felt that her record has been mischaracterized under the VoteSmart analysis, emphasizing her pro choice and pro equality stand on other issues.
For the record, every candidate supports civil union legislation for same-sex couples, including Mays, they all support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ("ENDA"), which ends discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation, all favored the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and all support hate crimes legislation. Pollard, Porter and Myers noted they all had been employed by businesses and organizations which treated all employees equally, including with respect to health care benefits. Porter noted he has re-introduced his hate crimes legislation, HB 1076, which he promised to fight to the end to get passed this year. Each of the candidates also expressed their support for maintaining the separation of church and state doctrine and indicated they would not seek to impose their personal religious views on others through the legislative process. Carson said he detests the practice of some politicians to "pimp" members of the GLBT community every election cycle for political gain.
Not surprisingly, the Iraq War is not popular with this group of candidates. Myers feels that Congress has been too passive in challenging the Bush administration on the Iraq War among other issues. Sanders called it a War for Oil and supports bringing our troop home as soon as possible. Carson's views mirror those of his grandmother, who opposed the congressional resolution authorizing military action in Iraq.
Candidates who would have to give up their office were asked about possible replacements. Orentlicher made a bit of news when he mentioned that Ed DeLaney and Kelly Flynn are two persons to whom he had personally spoken who would be interested in taking his place in the House should he be elected to Congress. Both Porter and Mays said they had persons in mind, although neither named who those potential replacements would be. Rodman suggested his chief deputy, Tom Creesor (sp?) or Stan Bibbs as potential candidates to replace him. Note that Sanders and Carson arrived late from tonight's CCC meeting and were not asked the question.
All of the candidates tonight presented themselves well. It's hard to pick a winner. Carson is definitely a very good public speaker as is Rodman. Myers has a very impressive resume, but other than Mays, he probably connected least with the audience. This was the first time most people had heard Pollard speak, and I think he impressed folks. Sanders, Orentlicher and Porter were sentimental favorites among many in the audience because of their past association with GLBT causes. Perhaps the least believable statement made by any of the candidates tonight was Mays' claim that she had originally had no intention of seeking the 7th District seat until she was approached by many people asking her to run for the seat, including complete strangers in the parking lot at the grocery store.
Three of the Maherns were in the audience tonight. I tried to get Dane Mahern to give up who the family bloc would be supporting at the caucus, but I couldn't get him to give it up. I think it is safe to say this race is very fluid. Many committeepersons appear to be undecided. The candidates are going to have to earn some real face time with the committeepersons before this Saturday to sell them on their candidacies. Turnout may be the key. It is quite possible that no more than 400 eligible committeepersons will show up to vote on Saturday.