Elrod's win represents yet another repudiation of the status quo Republican establishment. Elrod stunned caucus-goers when he announced during his speech to precinct committeepersons that he had been asked last Saturday by the party establishment to step aside in favor of another candidate. Elrod reminded the party faithful that Keith Buelen didn't let the party establishment tell him what he couldn't do nearly 40 years ago when he successfully challenged them for control of the party, and Greg Ballard didn't let establishment tell him he couldn't win the election to be Indianapolis' mayor in this past November's election. Like Buelen and Ballard, Elrod said he rejected the establishment's view that the 30-year-old was too young and incapable of raising the money required to win the race to the cheers of his supporters.
Elrod assured the party he had assembled an organization which will allow him to raise the money needed to run a competitive special election race against Democrat Andre Carson, a 32-year-old newcomer to the Indianapolis City-County Council. He reminded his audience that he had won a race for state representative last year everyone told him he couldn't win, leading Star political columnist Matt Tully to call him the "hardest working politician." The icing on the cake for Elrod was the infamous poll unsuccessful Democratic congressional candidate State Rep. Carolene Mays commissioned a little more than a week ago, which showed him within three percentage points of Carson. Elrod said he could win because he proved in his successful State House bid that he is capable of winning the votes of blue collar workers and Indianapolis' diverse inner city population. And, drawing lots of laughter from the audience, Elrod told the party faithful he had no skeletons in his closet. "Having run against a Mahern, it would have already come out if there was anything." On a personal note, Elrod noted that the special election on March 11 will coincide with his mother's birthday. What better gift to give to his mother on his birthday than to vote to send him to Congress.
Several precinct committeepersons I spoke to tonight, confirmed that Rose's candidacy was being pushed by Center Township Republican leader David Brooks and state party chairman Murray Clark. State GOP Committeeman for the 7th District John Hammond assured me he had remained neutral in the race. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John did not recommend either candidate over the other. In his introduction of Jon Elrod, however, John offered some very flattering comments about Elrod, suggesting he was his personal choice. Mayor Greg Ballard addressed the caucus prior to the vote and urged the committeepersons to vote their conscience and "do what you think is right with no special agenda." He added, "Our party is better off if we do this."
Rose pitched caucus-goers on his ability to put together an organization, a message and money for the 60-day sprint to the March 11 special election. Rose said it would take $250,000 to $400,000 to run the special election. Rose said he had in hand $40,000, another $75,000 in commitments and would raise $100,000 within 10 days. Touting himself as an "unconventional candidate" who would run an "unconventional campaign", Rose opened his speech by leading everyone in prayer for members of our armed forces. He said his campaign would send a strong message to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Republicans were going to take back control of Congress this year, and that it was going to start right now with this special election.
The 7th District Republicans wisely chose Elrod over Rose. I can tell you from the conversations I had yesterday with many Democrats who are dissatisfied that the Carson machine prevailed over more qualified candidates that they are fully prepared to cross over and vote for Elrod. This is particularly true of GLBT Democrats, who consider Elrod a better choice than Carson on their issues. Democrats who plan to support State Rep. David Orentlicher in the May primary believe an Elrod victory will bolster their candidate's chance of winning the May primary. One Democrat observer told me that Orentlicher will raise $400,000 for his primary race against Carson. And that race begins now and not after the March 11 special election so Carson will be opposing a strong candidate from within his own party at the same time he is campaigning against Elrod for the special election. A Carson loss in the special election will help Orentlicher make his case that Carson is unelectable in the November general election.
As an aside, Jocelyn Tandy Adande appeared at tonight's caucus and wore an identification badge announcing herself as a Republican candidate in the 7th District. She confirmed in a conversation with me she intends to run in the May primary. She was not happy to learn that tonight's caucus slated the primary candidate, as well as the special election candidate. She complained to me that Tom John had not been returning her phone calls. Ballard campaign supporter Darla Williams, who had been a precinct committeeperson, was upset that she had been pulled and was not able to vote at tonight's caucus. Both Adande and Williams noted the small number of African-Americans at tonight's caucus. Ron Frankliln attributed the low turnount to the timing of today's caucus right after the Colts playoff game against the Chargers.
The number of voting PCs at tonight's caucus was much smaller than were in attendance at the Democrats caucus. There were 300 tonight compared to the Democrats 439. State Committeeman John Hammond explained to me, however, that Republicans used the new, reduced number of precinct districts for purposes of tonight's caucus, while the Democrats used the old precinct districts. That explains a significant amount of the difference in the numbers.
Perhaps the most unusual moment during tonight's caucus came when Tandy, Williams and I all shared a conversation with Mayor Ballard. Nobody held any punches and Mayor Ballard gave back as good as we could dish out to him. Mayor Ballard is coming into his own now and his presence was very much felt in the room tonight. He didn't have to endorse Elrod. When he told PCs to vote their conscience, that's all people had to hear. They knew what he meant. I think the GOP left tonight's caucus feeling better about their candidate's chances than they have in any recent elections. Elrod just might become the first Republican since Watergate took out William Hudnut to win this congressional district.