As 439 precinct committeepersons out of a possible 599 filed into Shortridge Middle School's auditorium this morning, Carson, along with the other 7 candidates, were there to greet them and ask them one last time for their support. An exuberant Carson told me, "We're confident." In contrast, Orentlicher said simply that he would finish in the top two before the vote was taken. There are two races, here explained. "A race to complete the uncompleted term of Carson and a race for the future of the 7th District." Orentlicher made clear his intentions to take his fight for the future of the district to the Democrat's May primary, notwithstanding his crushing defeat today.
"We all have to come together and show the GOP this is a Democratic seat," Carson blared after obtaining his quick and clean victory. "We don't need another puppet in Congress for big business and corporations," he declared. We need to get our troops out of Iraq. And we need to address the problem of global warming. As he thanked the gathered for their ringing endorsement, several of the losing candidates gathered near the stage to congratulate Carson, including Orentlicher, who exchanged a friendly hug with Carson. A proud former Rep. Andy Jacobs shared the moment of victory with Carson. Jacobs wore a campaign button which read, "I Like Andre."
Carson picked up some big endorsements before today's vote, including former Mayor Bart Peterson. Unlikely committeepersons cast a vote for Carson. A white, female committeeperson from an upscale downtown neigbhorhood liked Orentlicher better than any of the candidates, but she voted for Carson because she said " we can't afford to lose David's work on the many issues he helps us out with locally." City-County Councilor Dane Mahern, who represents a southside, working class neighborhood threw his support behind Carson. "Carson is young and energetic, and that's what we need at this time," Mahern said.
There were some complaints leading up to today's vote about the accuracy of eligible list of voters today. Bad and outdated lists of committeepersons maintained by the Marion County Democratic Party was blamed for many of the problems. State party officials had to work on cleaning up the list prior to today's vote. That left some people, such as Bil Browning, complaining that they were ineligible to vote today. Browning said he believed that he was still a committeeperson for the precinct to which he was appointed in 2006. Almost a quarter of the eligible committeepersons didn't show up for today's vote. Given the size of Carson's victory on the first ballot, it is doubtful any discrepancies in the eligible voter list could have changed the outcome of today's vote. As a funny aside, I observed former City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah casting a vote today. Do you think he ever moved into that precinct?
Marion County Democratic Chairman Mike O'Connor maintained a very low profile today. He was not on the stage with state party officials as the voting was being conducted. One committeeperson complained to me that O'Connor had been out in California on vacation this week instead of helping with preparations for today's caucus, which some likened to the Iowa presidential caucus. Nonetheless, it appears Democrats will be fairly united for the special election on March 11, if not this May's primary. I don't expect any of the other candidates besides Orentlicher to challenge Carson in the May primary. Former health commissioner Dr. Woody Myers bypassed today's caucus and said he would instead focus on winning the May primary; however, it doesn't appear his candidacy is gaining any momentum. We are essentially looking at a two-man race between Carson and Orentlicher. I'm told that Orentlicher has already line up some big financial commitments to finance his May primary. Look for lots of dollars to flow into this race from around the country.
Now, the questions remains who will the Republicans pick tomorrow at their caucus? I can tell you that the Democrats gathered today would feel blessed if the Republicans pick former Jerusalem Post publisher Tom Rose. As one northside Democrat told me, not even the city's northside Jewish voters will back him. They are still miffed at a letter that Rose sent several years ago in Orentlicher's State House race against Jim Atterholt to members of the Jewish synagogue telling them that they should support Atterholt over Orentlicher because he was more pro-Israel. Democrats fear a Jon Elrod candidacy because they know he has a demonstrated ability to get cross-over votes, which any Republican will need in order to win in the Democratic district--one which even former presidential candidate John Kerry carried with 58% of the vote in 2004.