Wednesday, February 20, 2008

7th District Candidates Sound Off In First Round

The three candidates seeking to fill the vacancy created by the death of the late Rep. Julia Carson in the March 11 special election met and spoke to 7th district voters for the first time tonight at the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church on the city's northside. About two hundred people showed up, along with a bevy of TV news cameras and local reporters, to hear what Andre Carson (D), Jon Elrod (R) and Sean Shepard (L) had to say. If you had a favorite going into tonight's debate, you probably left happy with your candidate. My impression is that the hardcore supporters of each of the candidates were extremely pleased with how their candidate performed.

Because the event was hosted by Indiana Equality, the candidates faced tough questioning on where they stood on various issues of interest to the GLBT community; however, the questions were wide-ranging and exhausting for the candidates--nearly 90 minutes under the spotlight. If I can characterize the candidates tonight as objectively as I can, I would have to describe Carson as the demagogue, Shepard as the scholar and Elrod as the realist. Carson had the scripted sound bites down. Shepard can eloquently and intelligently address any issue. Elrod, although hesitant at times, delivered the most practical and realistic approach on any host of issues. "Calm, determined leadership" was how he summed up the quality that makes him best qualified to serve in Congress.

Carson called for immediate ratification of the Kyoto protocols by the U.S., he wants to immediately double the federal minimum wage law to $12 per hour, he wants universal health care now and a chicken in every pot. A friend of mine joked about Carson's apparent hypocrisy on his strong environmental, anti-global warming stance as he drove away from tonight's forum in a gas-guzzling, foreign-made BMW SUV, which should make all the UAW area workers at GM, Ford and Chrysler happy. It all sounds good, even if his thinking isn't sound. Speaking of hypocrosy, Carson sounded off the loudest on the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform, decrying the role of big corporate special interest money in the electoral process. Of couse, he's the first and only candidate in the race to have TV and radio ads financed entirely with D.C. special interest money.

I liked Shepard's retort to Carson's call for a $12 an hour minimum wage. "How about $100 an hour and a Lexis?", Shepard sarcastically asked the audience, which drew a good laugh. Shepard wholeheartedly embraces the privatization of social security. He would gladly give up all the taxes he's paid into the social security system, if he can take that same money for the remainder of his working years and put it into his own private retirement account. He also wants to abolish the Department of Education. He's against the Kyoto protocols championed by Carson.

Elrod supported a higher state minimum wage law during his first year as a state lawmaker, which tied Indiana's rate to the federal rate, which is scheduled to increase to $7.25 an hour by 2009. He thinks it is impractical to expect a $12 an hour minimum wage, noting that employers will stop hiring younger workers and those workers who are difficult to employ because of low skills and criminal records if the wage rate is increased that high. The Kyoto protocols would impose punitive measures on U.S. companies, while allowing businesses in China a complete pass to emit as many green house emissions as their hearts desire he observed.

On predatory lending, Carson wants more federal regulation to protect homebuyers. Elrod warned that the dream of owning a home would be denied to many if Carson's over-regulatory approach is adopted, hurting the very people you are seeking to protect with more government regulation. Shepard echoed Elrod's sentiment. He expressed great concern over the recent spectacle of our own President having to visit Dubai to get an infusion of capital from a state-run business there to bail out CitiBank, one of the nation's largest mortgage lenders.

On immigration, all three candidates opposed amnesty. Carson wants to secure the border but provide a path to citizenship for some but only after they go to the back of the line. Elrod believes the current system is allowing the creation of a sub-class of workers who are being preyed upon. He thinks the current quota system for alien workers is too restrictive and gives too much control to the employer over the worker. He would like to see work visa quotas and rules loosened up to meet our country's labor demand with legal, alien workers. Shepard emphasized the need to shut off the flow of illegal aliens across our borders, comparing it to a leaky faucet. "You need to shut off the water before you begin the repair work."

All three candidates agreed that we needed to bring an end to the Iraq War. Carson repeated his often-used rhetorical question, "Why are spending billions building schools and roads in Iraq, when we need money for schools and roads here at home?" Carson seemed to moderate his earlier "cut and run" stance. He said he would not impose a date certain that all troops had to be removed from Iraq. Earlier, his statement was less equivicol, calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops. Shepard, too, wants to end the War in Iraq. He, like Carson, was exremely critical of the inititial decision to go to war and wants to bring it to a quick end. While Elrod wants to bring the troops home, he doesn't support an immediate pull out that would create a vaccuum which would allow radical sects to seize control of the government and create a national security nightmare in the Middle East.

The candidates were asked about the role of faith in their political decision-making. Carson, without referencing his own Muslim religion, said that religion often acted as the source of bigotry in our society and he unequivocally opposed it. I think many in the audience would have liked him to address why he and his family invited one of the most bigoted, religious leaders in the country, the controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, to speak at his grandmother's funeral, even endorsing the younger Carson as he eulogized his grandmother. Carson never touched the subject. Elrod emphasized the importance of maintaining the constitutional separation of church and state, a view echoed by Shepard.

It wouldn't have been a debate without questions on gun control and abortion. Carson is for abortion on demand and supports gun control. He said very few people are qualified and trained well enough to own a gun. Elrod and Shepard both oppose abortion and more gun control laws, noting their support of the 2nd Amendment.

The three candidates surprisingly shared similar positions on the major GLBT issues. All unequivicolly supported the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." They all agree that government shouldn't be in the business of defining marriage. As Elrod explained it, each religious group should be free to set their own definitions of marriage and government should get out of the business of regulating marriages. Instead, the government should allow civil unions between two consenting adults, whether of the same sex or opposite sex. The candidates spoke approvingly of proposed legislation to treat domestic partners on the same footing as married couples for tax purposes, known as the Domestic Partner Tax Equality Act. Elrod reminded the audience he was the only one on the panel who co-sponsored and voted for hate crimes legislation as a legislator. He noted he was also the only member of the House Republican caucus to oppose SJR-7 and the only Republican to refuse to sign a petition this week urging the House to take a vote on the controversial marriage amendment this year.

In his opening and closing comments, Carson clinged heavily to the memory of his grandmother. "She was bold." "She was a dynamic public servant." "She was courageous." At least he didn't compare her to Jesus Christ and Ghandhi as he did the other day. Carson struck me as the guy who has been planning a run for public office for some time. He was just appointed to the City-County Council six months ago after holding down a series of government jobs his grandmother helped him get.

Elrod, by comparison, would have been quite happy practicing law with his father. He explained that he had no intention of going into politics until he was approached at the age of 27 and asked to decide on the spot if he would run for a spot on the Center Township Advisory Board. He ran and won in an upset. He quickly became , disillusioned though, when he figured out the other board members were only interested in showing up for a handful of meetings and collecting their $6,000 paycheck. The only motion he was able to offer during his two years on the Board was one to require the proposed budget to be circulated well in advance of the budget hearing instead of 20 minutes before it was voted upon. His motion died for a lack of a second. Elrod went on to win another upset race over State Rep. Ed Mahern, an entrenched, high-ranking Democrat. Elrod's independence is self-evident, and his desire and ability to cross the aisle and work with members of the other party is a refreshing change.

As I described him, Shepard is the scholar. He is well-studied on all the issues. The Libertarian view is often attractive to fiscally conservative Republicans who want less government and lower taxes. Many of his ideas sound very good on paper, but the practical reality is that they aren't going to happen. You aren't going to get rid of the federal Department of Education. And you aren't going to privatize social security.

On a closing note, State Rep. David Orentlicher (D), who is running against Carson in the May primary, arrived early and shook hands with as many attendees tonight as possible, much to the chagrine of Carson and his supporters.
A special thanks to tonight's sponsors, including HRC, Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination, Log Cabin Republicans, NBJC, National Stonewall Democrats, National Center on Transgender Equality and The Word, as well as Indiana Equality for organizing tonight's event. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy has a story on last night's forum here.


Wilson46201 said...

I was astonished Elrod still trying to peddle that hoary story about not getting the Township budget before he could vote on it. By law, the budget must be presented at least 10 days before it can be voted on: that's why there are always 2 Budget meetings on the schedule - one to present the Budget and the 2nd one 10 days later for the vote (after having time to digest it and get comments from the public). Sounds like poor Jon Elrod was confuzzled on a Township Board - Congressional protocol would really befuddle him!

Anonymous said...

Clearly, Andre wanting to double the minimum wage to $12 shows he has ZERO business sense.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else see Wilson get "bitch" slapped by the lady at the forum tonight?
I wanted to shout "you go girl", but André was talking and I was trying real hard to make sense of what he was saying. André stated that he wanted a twelve-dollars per hour minimum wage. Is he crazy? Twelve-dollar an hour? He must be smoking something good.
Anyway, lady in the back, nice right hook.

André needs to get Mr. Wilson under control. It's very disrespectful to expect the organizers to have to tell someone to quit bothering the guests over and over again. Mr. Wilson was very rude with the picture taking, Mr. Manners he isn't.

Anonymous said...

Increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour? LOL! For a non-degreed, barely having a hs diploma, low-skilled worker? In both the private and public sectors?

This guy is completely lacking in sound economics. And he has a master's degree in business administration?

Gary, it's true,Andre has been itching for public office for some time. Several years ago, he unsuccessfully sought an appointment to the IPS School Board to fill a vacancy.

Sean Shepard said...

Andre was completely playing to the crowd on some of these. I loved walking in and seeing David O there greeting folks even after the DCCC basically has tried to put the smackdown on anyone else contending for the Primary nod.

If you noticed the insistance on Universal Healthcare and minimum wage increases are of the typical "can I buy your vote" strategy.

As far as universal healthcare goes... many of the "big evil" corporations are pushing this so they can ditch their benefit liabilities to retirees (and others) - and the Democrats push this as helping the poor when the impact is likely to be long lines, high taxes to pay for it, rationing and a (per capita over time) reduction in service providers.

I believe the quote is: "Government is never more dangerous, than when our desire to have it help us, blinds us to its great power to harm us" - Ronald Reagan, (1980 if memory serves).

Marti said...

Andre missed an opportunity at a comeback to Shepard... "well, then, why have a minimum wage at all?" The Lexus comment was simply snarky rhetoric. If you look at a place like Washington state, raising the minimum wage hasn't had the disastrous effects that people like Elrod and Shepard claim it will.

IMO, Carson and Shepard were the big winners. But I don't expect you to see that.

I wonder if you'll turn on Elrod if he gets in office the way you've turned on Ballard?

Anonymous said...

Wilson, that's a red herring and you know it.

What Elrod wanted, and never got, was a more-detailed budget report and priorities. In advance of the meeting where board members voted on it. Which isn't too much to ask. The shameful conduct of the trustee and other board members on this subject cannot be explained away, even by a former township employee like you.

Andre held his own last night, but he needs a new stump speech. $12 an hour is a joke, so he'd better hope that doesn't get much play.

I was most impressed with the guy who can't win--Shepherd. I'd goneinto the debate knowing llittle about him, and only reading what he'd posted on multiple blogs. Which is mostly tripe. Last night, while I didn't always agree with him, he clearly had command of most issues. He needs a fact-checker, particularly on budget debt and per-capita income/debt.

Those who attended last night were the real winners. We got to see each candidate up-close and personal.

The BMW drive-away is just ridiculous, if he really did it. But not that surprising. Andre has that "entitled" attitude.

Anonymous said...

Good write up - when is the next "Debate" ?

At least Elrod TRIED to do something ? What has Andre authored on his own in the CCC ?

Anonymous said...

AI, BMW has a factory in South Carolina where they make SUVs for the North American market.

Anonymous said...

7:26 AI Said "hypocrisy on his strong environmental, anti-global warming stance as he drove away from tonight's forum in a gas-guzzling, foreign-made BMW SUV, which should make all the UAW area workers at GM, Ford and Chrysler happy."

The plant in SC is probalby NOT Union, it is a foreign company ( but finished in the states ) probably not enviro friendly and I would suspect the profits go out of the country and do not stay here in the USA.

Sir Hailstone said...

"A friend of mine joked about Carson's apparent hypocrisy on his strong environmental, anti-global warming stance as he drove away from tonight's forum in a gas-guzzling, foreign-made BMW SUV"

7:26, and Gary - BMW does own a factory in South Carolina (Aiken I think) where the X5 is built. Similar to Toyota, Subaru, and soon Honda in Indiana the product is made here but the profits of the plant go back to Japan.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of any Dem candidate for major office anywhere who's stupid enough to be seen being transported to campaign events in a BMW, regardless of
whether the X-3 or X-5 was assembled in the USA. In fact,
there are some candidates who
won't even be seen in a Ford Fusion
for example because I think it is assembled in Mexico.

Maybe Wilson will tell us what
type of vehicles Andre owns.
Is Andre a real UAW man or is he just a fake? His grandmother was
astute enough that she would never
have been seen in a BMW.

Anonymous said...

Lets get something clear...Andre did not drive himself to the debate or home last night. He doe not own a BMW. Someone who was driving him probably owned the BMW He owns and drives a Lincoln aviator. Which he drives right into the UAW parking lots when he meets with them.

Secondly....why not strive for a higher minimum wage....$7.25 an hour....thats still isn't a living wage. favorite line of the night was from elrod as he started every other answer to a that's a difficult issue or I don't know....or I haven't thought about it.....

If its too tough or you haven't haven't come prepared...what are you going to do if you ever are elected to the quiet kid in the back that doesn't say much....please.

Anonymous said...

There are good reasons for providing a budget in a timely fashion well before it is presented to board members or members of the public for any meeting, township or other. That purpose is for interested parties to have the time to thoroughly examine it, research the validity for any line item increases or decreases, and in general, be able to ask intelligent questions concerning justification of the budget, as a whole.
Ample time for budget discussions during the first required budget meeting may not be provided. This then paves the way for the majority party to pass the budget at the second meeting-leaving many questions unanswered.

Anonymous said...

8:40--you're right: Elrod did say "that's a tough question" way too many times. Nerves, I think. Hell, they're ALL tough questions.

But any Andre supporter really doesn't want to go down the "Debate Rhetoric" path. Andre weaved together multiple ten-second soundbites. The same exact opening speech from Saturday's Democratic convention (thanks, Wilson, for the uTube link!), and a dramatic lack of knowledge about the language. He used the wrong words on multiple occasions. It was really embarrassing. ("I have no compulsion.."? HUH?)

If you're choosing someone based on your own interests, Andre might be your guy. He was right on most of the issues about which I care...but he shows a strong lack of depth on important issues. He'd easily be a back-bencher in this Cognress. Leadership wouldn't let him out of the coop very often.

Oh yeah--I have a relative who works for BMW. That S. Carolina plant is a source of joking among their management worldwide. SC opened up its doors, gave away the store, and all the profits, about $10,000 per vehicle, go right back to Germany.

And it is largely a non-union plant.

A smart Democratic politician would've called a cab or found a supporter who drove an American-brand car. Seriously. It's not a tough call.

Anonymous said...

Gotcha, anon 8:40. It's Carson's wife who drives the BMW. He drives the Lincoln Aviator.

Anonymous said...

"His grandmother was
astute enough that she would never
have been seen in a BMW."

Julia attended several functions arriving in a German built Mercedes.

UAW friendly? I don't think so. She wasn't and André can't think past his own nose without coaching.

Anonymous said...

Actually your wrong again...Mrs. Carson drives a ford escape...which wait...oh an american made have no idea what your talking about.

Anonymous said...

So, Wilson, you want us to believe that you are smarter than "poor Jon Elrod". You, who spent your life as a low-level government clerk, political hack, and dirty-trickster, are smarter than a successful, educated private-sector professional?

You're a silly man.

Anonymous said...

OK, no one else has asked, so I'll jump in:

How can a teacher and an excise cop afford about $100K of automobiles?

Just askin'. I've already made my mind on on the March 11 election, but this is a strange item indeed.

Anonymous said...

Indiana Equality is a class act and so is the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church. In my mind both, were the winners last night. The people at the church made me think about attending church again. There was no judgement there. It felt safe and neutral.

The debate rocked! Sean blew me away and made me very happy I did not get the Libertarian nod to run because the issues clearly take years of study to understand to the degree that Sean Shepard does.

I plan to vote for Jon Elrod in the future...just not on March 11. My take on Jon is that he's an honest and thoughtful guy. I was particularly impressed that he indicated he would staff the congressional office with people that knew how to work through gov't bureaucracy to get things done because that's where the rubber meets the road.

With the developments going on with our assessments, I hope that Elrod will take a hard stance in the statehouse for property tax reform and repeal. We need his voice in the state house for us.
This is the worse year ever for citizens and we desperately need his help.

As far as Carson, does he not know that this whole town knows he got his job at Cripe Architects to simply pay him for influencing city contracts to them?

Carson wants our inept government to grow even larger, yet acknowledges that government is screwed up and offered no plan to fix anything.

If I didn't know the candidates, I'd have a hard time picking between Elrod and Shepard.

However, what on earth can it hurt for Indiana to make history by electing the 1st Libertarian to Congress?

We are simply filling the 7th district office for 9 months and have not had representation since at least six or seven months anyway. What harm can come?

This is just the message America needs to hear right now. Imagine the hope America will feel to hear that the heartland woke up and made a bold move to create change in how we are governed by electing a completely competent and principled Libertarian to be 1st in Congress.

Anonymous said...

Imagine the hope America will feel to hear that the heartland woke up and made a bold move to create change in how we are governed by electing a completely competent and principled Libertarian to be 1st in Congress.

Someone's been hitting the crack pipe again.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if no one ever held believed that blacks and women would get the vote.

Once upon a time, people never thought gays could come out of the closet.

Kennedy announced America would be first on the moon. Few believed it to be possible then. It only took 5 or 6 years until we were making history! Was Kennedy smoking crack?

In the 60's when Star Trek was on the air, no one thought the internet or cell phones were possible...yet, it became real.

Anything we want can be manifest. And America wants and needs hope.

A Libertarian in Congress will send a message across this nation appropriately from the HEARTLAND that America's people are ready for a real reform.

A libertarian in Congress will send a clear message from the people that both parties are on notice and that a 3rd party, still clean and pure, has arrived.

The theme for 2008 is "Hope" and "Change". Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

My problem with Libertarians (capital "L") is that their principles dictate opposition to drug laws as well as laws against other of what they consider "victimless crimes".

How does the line go..."a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds". The "principled consistency" that leads Libertarians to oppose all kinds of law and regulation overlooks some commonsense necessities in organized society. It is indeed foolish consistency. IMO it will always prevent the election of Libertarians to national offices.

Anonymous said...

While you might not like it that people do drugs, you might be surprised to learn how much harsher drug offenders' sentences can be than those with violent crimes.

You should investigate how much it costs YOU, the taxpayer to send these perpetrators of victimless crimes through the courts and ultimately how much your share is to pay to imprison them.

Meanwhile, violent crime keeps marching forward. A lot of violent crime is directly related to drug trafficking. A lot of drug trafficking would disappear if drugs were legal.

It's not an easy problem, but we've got to do something to stop the money hemmorraging of America, don't we?

indyernie said...

Carson's repeated comments on law enforcement would lead one to believe that he was some kind of a super cop. In reality most LEO’s consider him just one notch above a security guard.
His comment on gun control was condescending. I believe that André thinks that he and only he is qualified to know who should own and carry a handgun.

Anonymous said...

245 PM - that was funny!!!! I do know someone invited to the Libertarian party, but if they wanted to play, ie volunteer, they had to bring money to the table. What a bunch of crap. No vote from me if those are their rules.

Anonymous said...

6:37...I've been a Libertarian since 2003. They've never asked me for money to volunteer.

If they have a fundraiser, they require you to pay to come because they pay for drinks and dinners, etc. Perhaps your friend got an invite to a fundraiser and was confused?

If your wants to volunteer for the Libertarians, call me. I'll give work to do and won't ask for a cent. In fact, I'll probably extend an invite to dinner at the end of the treat!

What you are saying just does not ring true. If you would give me more details, I would get to the bottom of it.

Have your friend call me to volunteer and we shall make it possible and make sure the state executive director knows the details of your friend's story.


Anonymous said...

Aren't there more important issues than cars?
Would someone like to borrow my 1985 AMC Renault Convertable for the next debate?