Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Look At Carson And Elrod In Their Own Words

The Star's Robert King sat down with each of the two candidates for the 7th District special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson. Here's what we learn about the two candidates with my comments.


Carson: Carson grew up on Park Street, in a Near-Northside neighborhood just south of Fall Creek. He describes it as living in "Dodge City" for all of the gunfire around him. Gang wars and drug dealers were a part of the landscape. He took part in a neighborhood crime watch that reported drug activity. Walking home one day he met a friend who told of being molested by a man nearby. "We lived in the 'hood," Carson says. The experiences contributed to his decision to enter law enforcement. Today, the area is part of the restored Fall Creek Place neighborhood, where he lives with his wife and child.

Elrod: Elrod grew up on his family's bucolic 14-acre homestead on the Southeastside of the county, east of Southport. He and his three brothers swam and fished in a pond on the property, which also had a volleyball court and a basketball hoop. There was a creek he would prowl with his mother and collect snakes. He dreamed of becoming a paleontologist. The trees around the house were thick enough to make Arlington Avenue and the nearby homes all but invisible. His mother describes it as "heavenly." Elrod now lives Downtown.

Comment: Carson was clearly trying to use this as an opportunity to prove his bona fides as being raised in the "hood." Elrod's boyhood is idyllic, what else can you say.

Family Life

Carson: Carson's mother and father never married. For much of his life, his father was absent. He describes his mother as loving, but troubled with personal problems he declines to discuss. Those troubles contributed to them being forced to live temporarily in a homeless shelter when he was a preschooler. From there he was raised by his grandmother Julia Carson, who became like a mother (photo at left). Aside from love, Andre says she taught him responsibility, requiring him at age 14 to start paying her $50 in monthly rent. He earned the money by working part-time in car washes and moving stuff for a construction company.

Elrod: Elrod's parents have been married 43 years. His father, Bob Elrod, is a lawyer. His mother, Bev Elrod, stayed home with her four sons. Jon, who has a twin brother, Jerry, and his other brothers attended the same elementary school their father had. His grandparents lived next door and helped with child care.

Comment: "The most important things I can pass on to my daughter are the values that my family taught me," is the line Carson uses in his campaign commercials. What values he's talking about is quite unclear. It's obvious he had two absent parents by his own description who never bothered with marriage or raising their children. The part of this story I find unbelievable is that his grandmother started charging him rent of $50 a month when she took him in at age 14. By today's standard that would be about $125 a month. Either she was cold-hearted and greedy or Carson is exaggerating on this point. Grandma certainly doesn't come off looking good on this one. By comparison, Elrod grew up in a traditional family, with two loving, married parents raising their four sons. And he had a stay at home mom with the grandparents living next door. It doesn't get any better.


Carson: As a kid, he played football and basketball.

Elrod: He played Little League baseball and soccer. But in high school he moved on to wrestling and the pole vault. In college at Xavier University, he joined a rugby club (photo at right) and bulked up to endure its bruising nature. But he had to drop the sport after dislocating his shoulder a third time.

Comment: As someone who wasn't/isn't good at sports, I'll leave the comments to the readers.

Favorite books

Carson: "The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Haley." Carson was struck by the complexities of the black activist who was first committed to the black separatist teachings of the Nation of Islam but, just before his death, embraced a more unifying message. "I was fascinated by his journey," Carson said. He found the book while trying to understand the Black Muslim influences he saw in the neighborhood. Carson said the more tolerant message of Malcolm X's later years, following his turn to more traditional Islam, appealed to him.

Elrod: "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt." Elrod can trace the life and career of the nation's 26th president from memory. He favorite parts include the fights against corruption and pioneering efforts in conservation. As a boy, Roosevelt became a wrestler to gain physical strength. So, too, did Elrod. Both were elected to their Statehouse seats in their 20s. Elrod's entrance into politics was inspired partly by TR's quote: "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. . ."

Comment: To someone like me, all the talk about Malcolm X, Nation of Islam, etc. just confirms that Carson sees everything in terms of race and that does not project a message of unity as Carson claims he represents. I'm sick of that mentality as are many people. Given Elrod's commitment to being an agent for change, it comes as no surprise that Teddy Roosevelt is one of his political heroes.

Artistic pursuits

Carson: Carson was a rap artist with the stage name Juggernaut, performing at local variety shows and making some local recordings. He learned to rap almost as a matter of self-preservation because of the threat of rap battles he constantly faced in the school lunchroom and on the streets. To be found unprepared was a recipe for embarrassment and ridicule. "It was a peaceful way of deciding who was the wittiest, who was the best wordsmith, who could throw out the biggest words. You would study all night with the Webster's dictionaries." He did some break dancing until his grandmother objected to how dirty it left his shirts.

Elrod: Elrod has an extensive career as an amateur stage actor. In high school, he had the male lead in "Gift of the Magi" and played the Spaniard Inigo Montoya in a student production of "The Princess Bride" -- even choreographing the sword fighting scenes. In college, he helped found a law school drama society that performed plays with legal themes, including a take on "12 Angry Men." Recently he won the role of Felix in a community theater foray into "The Odd Couple." In school bands he played the baritone, trombone and tuba.

Comment: These two guys are as different as oil and water.

Political influences

Carson: Julia Carson, of course. His grandmother was a state legislator for 18 years and served a decade in Congress, from 1997 until her death in December. Andre worked on her campaigns and was a party to countless dinner-table chats with his grandmother on politics. In 1984, she took him to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco -- an experience he calls transformative.

Elrod: He comes from a political family. His grandfather, French Elrod, was a Marion County commissioner from 1955-65. His father, Bob Elrod, has been the Republican attorney for the City-County Council since 1970. Both his mother and father are longtime Republican committee workers. His parents particularly identify with the politics of Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar -- fiscally conservative, strong on defense.

Comment: It's what is not written here. People in the GOP will tell you that Elrod's family never pulled any strings to help him get elected. He earned the offices to which he was elected in his own right. Carson, on the other hand, relied exclusively on the help of his grandmother and political cronies to attain every job he's gotten in life.


Carson: Carson has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice management from Concordia University-Wisconsin through its satellite campus in Hamilton County. He has a master's in business management from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Elrod: Elrod has a bachelor's degree in history from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a law degree from Indiana University.

Comment: This is an issue I've discussed before which the local news media has completely ignored. If you accepted their education at face value, you would get the impression both candidates have earned undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. Carson's education claims are extremely suspect. We are to believe that Carson, while working full-time as a state police excise officer, earned a bachelor's degree from a Wisconsin university by traveling up to Carmel for night classes between Spring, 2001 and Spring, 2003. In his last semester, he earned 21 credit hours, bringing his total credit hours to 128. The school allowed him to transfer 6 hours from Ivy Tech and another 14 hours from the Indiana Police Academy, where he finished 88th out of 89 in his class. He got 20 hours of in-service credit. Sorry folks, but you don't have to be a skeptic to question this degree. Elrod graduated magna cum laude from Xavier University, which King omitted from Elrod's education credentials. Both his undergraduate and law degrees are from respected universities. They are legitimate.


Carson: In 2001, he married Mariama Shaheed-Carson. They have a 14-month old daughter, Salimah, whose name means "peaceful" in Arabic. Mariama, 32, is an assistant principal at Snacks Crossing Elementary School in Pike Township. She is the daughter of Marion Superior Court Judge David Shaheed.

Elrod: Elrod is single.

Comment: King has a bias against single persons.


Carson: When he was little, his mother made him read Bible stories and report on them each night before bed. He was baptized in a Baptist church. Through seventh grade he attended St. Rita's, a Catholic school, and considered the priesthood until he hit puberty. As a teen, he read the Talmud, ancient Jewish teachings, and the Bhagavad-Gita, the Hindu scripture. In high school, he became drawn to Islam by the sight of crisply dressed Nation of Islam members in his neighborhood. He sought guidance from Imam Muhammad Siddeeq, who briefly counseled Mike Tyson. Carson converted to traditional Islam in the mid-1990s. His mosque, Nur-Allah Islamic Center, closely identifies with Wallace Deen Mohammed, who abandoned the race-based theology of the Nation of Islam for the more universal teachings of traditional Islam.

Elrod: He has spent his entire life in the United Methodist Church, the diverse Mainline denomination home to both George W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Growing up, he attended University Heights United Methodist Church on the Southside. While at Indiana University, he served as the sexton at a Methodist church in Bloomington. He now attends Roberts Park United Methodist Church Downtown. He is a thesis shy of attaining a master's in theology from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis -- not because of interest in becoming a pastor but more for the sake of learning.

Comment: More talk about Nation of Islam. No mention of Carson's ties to Louis Farrakhan, C'mon, Robert King, it's the elephant in the room none of you media folks want to discuss because you know how much it infuriates white voters in the 7th District. Elrod and I are both Methodists. He still attends church regularly. I don't. [Update: The front page of the print edition carries a tag line saying on Monday the newspaper will carry a story entitled, "Carson Faces Concerns About His Muslim Faith." Again, the concern isn't that he is a Muslim. The concern is with his ties to the controversial Louis Farrakhan. It seems the media can only discuss it in those terms to try to turn the table on those raising questions about the Farrakhan connection to make them appear bigoted against the Islamic religion and deflect attention to the bigoted and anti-Semitic teachings of Farrakhan.


Carson: Carson is a marketing specialist. He joined Cripe Architects + Engineers, a local firm that specializes in designing schools as well as commercial projects, last year. He spent nine years as an officer with the State Excise Police, which enforces alcohol, tobacco and gambling laws, primarily in the area of sales to minors and illegal gambling machines. For nearly a year, he was detached to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's Intelligence Fusion Center, a multi-agency force that works to prevent terrorism, major crimes and narcotics trafficking. He was a watch officer, supervising intelligence analysts.

Elrod: Elrod is a lawyer. For five years, he has worked in the law practice established by his grandfather and continued by his father, Elrod & Mascher. He handles everything from personal injury cases to divorces to bankruptcies -- everything but criminal law. He has both defended corporations and sued them. "Nothing is too big and nothing is too small," he said.

Comment: Amazing how Carson can take those jobs his grandmother got him and make them seem impressive. Elrod and I are both lawyers. Is there any better way to earn a living?


Carson: Carson has received strong support from national Democratic Party leaders, including a fundraiser earlier this month in Washington, D.C., and is using an experienced Washington consultant. Locally, he inherited much of his grandmother's political machine, which helped her repeatedly fend off Republican challengers. His campaign has produced a pair of television ads and a radio ad that have aired repeatedly.

Elrod: Elrod has received no support from the national Republican Party. His political consultant is based in Franklin and is working on its first high-profile campaign. He has yet to hit the airwaves with ads, but video of his effort to write thank-you notes to supporters while sitting in the House chamber became a YouTube moment. He has received support from the Indiana Republican Party and his mother, Bev Elrod, recently made 517 phone calls on his behalf in a single day.

Comment: Again, King's bias against Elrod shines through.

Paths to Office

Carson: Carson has yet to face voters in a contested race. When City-County Councilman Patrice Abduallah resigned last year, Carson emerged from a caucus of precinct captains as the choice to fill the seat on an interim basis. He ran unopposed in November. After his grandmother's death, he was the first-ballot choice of county precinct committee chairs.

Elrod: Elrod won his first two elected offices in upsets in districts heavily favoring Democrats. In 2004, he won a seat on the Center Township Advisory Board by 35 votes. Then in 2006 he defeated Democratic incumbent Ed Mahern by eight votes to win a seat in the Indiana House. His secret, particularly in the House race, seems to be hard work. In that campaign he knocked on 6,000 doors.

Comment: King couldn't twist these facts against Elrod, could he?


Anonymous said...

I don't like Andre very much (and
I'm a Dem) as I think he's overall
superficial and rather mediocre,
but I think your analysis has way
too much cultural bias built in.
Almost everyone running for office claims that they grew up in an average middle class (or sometimes even financially poor) family (VP Chaney saying that his grandfather worked for a railroad, Laura Bush the librarian) and that they haven't forgotten their "average
Joe" middle class/financially struggling roots. These kind of claims are rather meaningless to me unless those mindsets can somehow translate into current problem solving strategies.

It sounds like you (and Elrod) ought to have TR 76 Motions ready to go if you get stuck in Shaheed's Court in the future.

Anonymous said...

AI, Believe it or not the rent thing may be true. That was about the time Julia lost her "no show, no work" job at Cummins, was being sued by Simons for not paying rent on her J Carson's clothing store in Claypool Court and had her state senate wages garnished to pay for her bad debts.

Anonymous said...

Elrod grew up in a traditional family, with two loving, married parents raising their four sons. And he had a stay at home mom with the grandparents living next door. It doesn't get any better.

Nice to see how quickly you turn your back on the gay community and use the very terms and concepts embraced by Eric Miller, et al.

Anonymous said...

Advance, Do you know what Carson's original last name was? I heard Carson isn't his birth name. He had it changed later on with an eye towards running for political office.

Wilson46201 said...

André's last name has been Carson since he was 9 years old when I first met him. If he did change his name earlier, you'll have to give the little tyke due credit for prudent, longterm planning at a youthful age!

Gary R. Welsh said...

John, I can only speak from my own experience. I grew up on a farm with two loving parents and a stay at home mom. If you want to twist that comment into something else, have at it, but I think most people understand exactly what I was saying.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comment on the bias against single persons. It's not just King. You see this in political reporting every election where candidates "being married" credential is used to puff up and humanize them while an unmarried person is dealt this terse little comment--"he's single." It's why people like Joe Hogsett desparately look for a new wife each time he runs for office. It's just not worth the built-in bias political reporting has against candidates who are single.

Anonymous said...

Carson: "The most important things I can pass on to my daughter are the values that my family taught me." That she can expect to be treated like an object by men and expect to be paid less for the doing the same job. Andre is a sexist.

Anonymous said...

Andre's last name? Let's see. The article said that he was born to Julia Carson's unwed daughter........CARSON......that took 2 seconds to figure subject, I guess a child growing up in a home with two loving same sex parents would be "unlucky" ????? A strange position for this blog to take.

Anonymous said...

It did not take Carson very long to bring up Julia's name in the Chan 13 round table with the other candidates this morning.

He can not even stand on his own two feet.

Anonymous said...

Though living outside the 7th I don't have a say in this race, and believing that Elrod is a quality candidate in his own right, I am still interested to know about the candidates, and it bothers me that the media excludes reporting on third party candidates (like Sean Shepard, for instance).

Gary R. Welsh said...

News Flash: Carson is having trouble finding volunteers to help out with his campaign. The campaign has sent out this e-mail alert: PAID CANVASS TO HELP ANDRE CARSON WIN THE MARCH 11TH SPECIAL ELECTION! Let's see, isn't that what happened in Bart Peterson's campaign last fall?

Wilson46201 said...

André Carson had over 100 enthusiastic volunteers out yesterday in 5 different townships. Besides Elrod posing for the TV cameras, does the GOP have any door-to-door teams at all helping their candidate?

By the way, those PAID VOLUNTEERS last fall helped Peterson win 54% to 44% in the 7th District. Don't knock a winning tactic!!!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Jon has hundreds of unpaid volunteers working for him, Wilson. Carson had to pay them $50 just to show up. I'm guessing most of the handouts they were given wound up in the trash after a few blocks just like what happened with Peterson's paid canvasers.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked at The Star's depth and coverage. It's the best political work they've done in years. And the teaser in today's paper promises more this week. But, a few things:

1. I am a lifelong Methodist and nowhere in the Discipline does the title "sextant" come up. The writers should've wandered onto The Internets and checked that one out--it's easy to do. We have decaons, Lay Leaders (please, no jokes), lay pastors, pastor-parish committees and Chairpersons, but no sextants.

2. I wasn't aware Mayor Peterson paid canvassers last year. If it happened, I didn't see it reported.
And I thought I paid close attention.

3. As quoted above:

" a teen, he read the Talmud, ancient Jewish teachings, and the Bhagavad-Gita, the Hindu scripture."

That is an empty campaign-convenient recitation of the "truth." I've heard this young man speak several times. His speech is not that of a well-read theologian. Not even close. I've read Talmud, and it's, well, plodding. It requires stern concentration and almost commands introspection. I don't see Andre doing either very often.

4. Growing up, if any guardian of mine had charged me rent--ever--it would not have been labeled "character-building." That one comment struck me more than anything else in the Star piece.
* * * * * * * *
As for Gary's choice of adjectives and comments, well, they are formed by his experiences in life. I found them to be honest. I wouldn't have used some of them, but he could easily say the same about me or any of us.

If Andre's handlers have any sense, they'll tape his mouth shut until Mar. 12. Unless it's scripted. And do what IU should've done to Kelvin Sampson: keep him away from the phone. Lest he talk with reporters unscripted.

When it's scripted, it sounds wooden, but at least he doesn't piss people off when he uses scripts or keeps quiet.

One word keeps coming to mind: shallow.

My decision to support ABA (Anyone But Andre) is now more solid than ever.

Blog on...

Gary R. Welsh said...

The teaser in the Star also indicates there will be a story on two fronts with Elrod on Tuesday: Is he Republican enough and can he represent an urban district? Where to begin, well, first, it isn't a Republican-leaning district, which means if you are far right conservtive Republican, you're never going to win an election. The second question is just down right insulting to all the white voters of the district. The "urban district" talk is just code for blacks. You won't see the Star questioning whether Carson can represent the nearly 70% whites who make up the 7th District.

Anonymous said...

André's last name has been Carson since he was 9 years old when I first met him.

Huh? This sentence makes absofriggenlutely no sense.

If his birth mother never wed his birth father, it stands to reason that Andre's last name is the maiden name of his mother, which is Carson, of course.

Someone's hitting the crack pipe again.

Wilson46201 said...

"Urban district" means precisely that: a large racially and culturally diverse non-agricultural metropolitan area. Unlike Elwood, Marshal or Martinsville. Some folk from these rural backwaters see African-Americans in a city and define the entire place as "Black". That's just plain ignorance!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson, Jon has already been elected twice in urban districts, including a seat on the Center Township Advisory Board and a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives. He also serves on the board of a community development corporation. He has represented a diverse community. Why ask that question of him and not Carson if the implication isn't because of the racial make-up of the district. Carson has only been on the ballot once by appointment and without an opponent. Why not ask the same question of him? It shows a bias, implying that Jon is incapable of representing black voters while Carson is automatically presumed to be capable of representing white voters.

Anonymous said...

"Today, the area is part of the restored Fall Creek Place neighborhood, where he lives with his wife and child."

I thought he lived on the westside in Haughville? Isn't that the City County district he is representing?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I live in Carson's district. It extends from the downtown area, winds its way north taking in some of Fall Creek and it extends west across the White River into Haughville.

Anonymous said...

Thanks AI for explaining the boundaries of Andre Carson's council district before there was some wild conspiracy theory about where he lived....speaking of which, where did Elrod live when he ran for the house of reps....??

Gary R. Welsh said...

Unlike Mahern, he lives in his district, anon 7:04. That's another one of the lies the Democrats are manufacturing.

Anonymous said...

It is worth noting the Andre belonged to a gang known as the Five Percenters which weren't exactly stomping out the drug trade in Dodge City so much as they were cutting the territory for themselves. The 5 Percenters tied in real heavy with the Nation of Islam and pushed gangsta rap.
Andre was no MC Hammer kind a guy and his rap wasn't kind to white people.
Folks, you all better get an idea of just what Andre Carson is before you vote for him.

Wilson46201 said...

So now anonymous nobodies are trying to tie a young Democratic African-American candidate to Congress with drug dealing? Why am I not surprised at the obvious desperation of the Republicans here?

Classy blog you're running here, Gary!

Anonymous said...

Wilson you wouldn't know classy if it fell on you while you were dumpster diving.

Anonymous said...

Andre's campaign is not going to rise and fall with some half-baked drug accusations on a blog.

He's done quite well explaining his views.

On those explanations alone, without ridiculouos side rhetoric about Muslim this and drugs that, Andre has helped people all over the 7th make up their minds.

If he wants to win, he needs a Rose Garden strategy. But he has become intoxicated with the limelight, and in tha tlight, he doesn't shine very well.

Anonymous said...

I wrote to the journalist who interviewed the candidates about omitting Sean Shepard. There will be an interview published with the Libertarian candidate this week.

I'm glad the Indy Star is making sure we get all the candidate's views so we can make an informed decision.