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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Indiana -- 07

House Incumbents Still Alive

Down-ballot from the presidential and gubernatorial races, three House incumbents started yesterday unsure of their respective fates. But all three exited the primaries unscathed and with a good chance of returning to Congress in 2009.

Less than two months after winning a special election to serve out the remaining term of his late grandmother, Rep. Andre Carson held off a seven-candidate field of challengers yesterday to secure his place on the November ballot in Indiana's 7th District. Carson's top challenger, former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers, spent more than $1 million of his own money, but was unable to overcome Carson's advantages; the incumbent won 46% to Myers's 24%. State Reps. David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays finished with 21% and 8%, respectively. In the November general election, Carson will face Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod, whom he defeated 54%-43% in the March special election.

In North Carolina, GOP Reps. Walter Jones and Patrick McHenry yesterday overcame what should be their toughest challenges of this election cycle. Jones, serving his seventh term in the House, became vulnerable to a challenge from the right after becoming outspoken about his opposition to the Iraq war. Representing a district that votes heavily Republican and includes two large Marine Corps bases, Jones was one of only two Republicans to co-sponsor the February 2007 resolution opposing Bush's troop surge. However, Jones held off Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin, who was not able to raise a large sum of money, defeating him 60%-40%.

McHenry, the youngest member of Congress, is serving his second term in office and represents one of the most conservative districts in the state. He was challenged by Air Force officer Lance Sigmon, but ended up with a comfortable 67%-33% victory. McHenry faced some controversy when video surfaced of him calling a contractor in Iraq a "two-bit security guard." Sigmon used the video in an ad, but the issue apparently was not enough to knock the incumbent off.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Despite Worries, Carson Leads

Despite Democratic worries about their prospects of keeping the late Rep. Julia Carson's Indianapolis-based Seventh District, a new poll conducted for an Indiana-based political report shows her grandson, city-county councilmember Andre Carson, well ahead of his Republican rival.

The DCCC has spent more than $44,000 on keeping the seat, though while Republicans are excited for the prospects of State Rep. Jon Elrod, they have yet to follow suit.

The poll, conducted by Gauge Market Research for Howey Politics Indiana, surveyed 300 likely voters between 2/17-18 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Andre Carson and Elrod were tested. 54% of the sample consisted of Democratic or lean-Democratic voters, while 39% were Republicans or those who leaned Republican. Seven percent were independents.

General Election Matchup with leaners
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom / Wht / Blk)
Carson 54 / 85 / 15 / 43 / 50 / 58 / 38 / 90
Elrod 36 / 11 / 78 / 10 / 43 / 28 / 49 / 4

Carson's advantage comes primarily from African Americans, who say they plan to cast ballots for him by a more than twenty-to-one margin. The district is 29% African American, as was 28% of the poll's sample size. Many of the district's white voters are Republican -- in fact, despite the district being primarily urban, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels does almost as well within the Seventh District as he does statewide.

Carson boasts an impressive 42%-20% favorable-to-unfavorable ratio, while 93% of district residents know him. Only Daniels is better-known inside the district. Nearly three in four district voters know Elrod, though only half of those who know him have formed an opinion. He has a favorable rating of 27%, and 11% see him unfavorably. The poll has to be welcome news for Democrats, though the money the DCCC spent can provide some peace of mind.

Dems Worried In IN?

As the fifth special election of the 110th Congress approaches, neither Democrats nor Republicans have scored a pick-up that might be seen as indicative of a coming wave. Each time a special election approaches, both parties work hard, and spend a lot of money, trying to upset their opponent in hopes that, in a vacuum, the victory will garner game-altering media attention.

So far, each party has been disappointed. Democrats were excited by their prospects in an Ohio special election, to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmor, though Republican Bob Latta ended up winning big. Republicans trumpet farmer Jim Ogonowski's narrow loss to Democrat Niki Tsongas in Massachusetts, though Tsongas actually won by about the same margin Governor Deval Patrick took in the district on the way to a landslide victory in 2006.

Now, with the passing of Indiana Democrat Julia Carson, Republicans are again targeting a seat that Democrats should hold. As with the Ohio special election, when the GOP spent heavily to keep the seat in their hands, Democrats are spending money in Indianapolis to try to protect their territory. The expenditures have caused some in Washington to take notice: Could Democrats be worried about a district that trends strongly their way?

Since February 12, when the DCCC made its first expenditure in the race, the committee has dumped almost $45,000 into aiding Indianapolis City Councilman Andre Carson, the late Congresswoman's grandson, through mail and television advertising. The committee has also spent thousands on what it refers to as "field organizing." "The fact that Democrats in Washington have to expend resources and dispatch staff into a deep blue district just goes to show how flawed a candidate Andre Carson really is," NRCC spokesman Ken Spain told Politics Nation.

In the March 11 special election, Carson faces State Rep. Jon Elrod, and the race could be tight. While Democratic candidates carried the Indianapolis-centric district by wide 16- and 12-point margins in 2004 and 2000, respectively, Julia Carson's final few re-election campaigns saw more voters splitting their tickets and choosing her opponents. She won just 54% of the vote in 2006 against a Republican who spent only $74,000, and the same percentage in 2004 when her unknown challenger spent just $25,000.

This year, Elrod is said to be raising impressive money, though Andre Carson is as well. Republicans have another reason to be optimistic: Last year, voters around the city delivered a stunning defeat to Democratic incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson and several Democrats at the city level, all in response to a property tax increase and a new crime wave. If Elrod can capitalize on that same anger, he might give Republicans a chance.

"Special elections can't be taken for granted and you have to be diligent," said DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell. "It is clear that the only candidate in this race capable of providing the change the people of the Seventh District are seeking on issues like job creation and education is Andre Carson and we are committed to helping him in his Special Election effort. The last thing the people of Indianapolis need is someone like Jon Elrod who supports George Bush's agenda to keep our troops in Iraq and privatize social security."

If Carson pulls off the win for Democrats, he will join Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison as the only two Muslims in Congress. In fact, the 110th Congress is unique for introducing new religions into the body: Hawaii Rep. Mazie Hirono and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, both elected in 2006, are the only two Buddhists to have served in Congress as well.

Parties Pick Candidates In Carson Special

Republican State Rep. Jon Elrod and Democratic Indianapolis City-County Councilor Andre Carson will face each other in the March 11 special election to fill the vacant 7th Congressional District seat.

Carson, grandson of the late Democratic Congresswoman Julia Carson, won the Democratic caucus vote on Saturday, defeating seven other candidates. Elrod won two races at the Republican caucus on Sunday: one to be placed on the March special election ballot, and the other to be the endorsed Republican candidate for the May primary.

Should Carson win the special election in March, a rematch will likely take place in November. For more on the Indianapolis-based district, which went heavily for John Kerry and Al Gore but recently chose a Republican challenger over an incumbent Democratic Mayor, click here.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Date Set To Replace Carson

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels Monday set March 11 as the special election date to replace Democratic Congresswoman Julia Carson in the the state's 7th District. Carson died of lung cancer in December.

The Indianapolis Star reports that eight potential Democratic candidates for the seat gathered at a forum last night, likely the only time the candidates will meet before the some 600 Democratic precinct committeemen caucus on Saturday to nominate a candidate.

Republicans will hold a nominating caucus for the special election on Sunday, and will also endorse a candidate for the seat in the May primary.

Andre Carson, grandson of the late congresswoman, announced January 3 that he had filed for the Democratic nomination for the seat, one day after being sworn in as an Indianapolis city-county councilor. Carson had been seen as an eventual successor to his grandmother even before her death, but he declined to announce his intentions to run now until last week.

Other Democratic candidates include Marion County Treasurer Michael Rodman, attorney Randle Pollard, and state representatives Carolene Mays, David Orentlicher and Gregory Porter. State Rep. Jon Elrod has been mentioned as a candidate for the Republican nomination.

This competitive district includes all of Indianapolis and most of Marion County, which has trended Democratic despite the seven surrounding counties continuing to be strongly Republican. Indianapolis had elected a Republican mayor for some 30 straight years until 1999, and in November voted out Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson in favor of Republican Greg Ballard. Still, the district leans Democratic, as John Kerry won here with 58% in 2004 and Gore won 55% in 2000. If Andre Carson wins the nomination on Saturday, his name-identification advantage and the Democratic tilt of the district give him the best shot of holding the seat for Democrats.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Carson Passes Away

Rep. Julia Carson, who rose from poverty and an early career as a secretary to become a state legislator and then a member of Congress in 1996, passed away yesterday at the age of 69. Carson announced she had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer earlier this year and said she would not run for re-election next year.

Carson entered politics at the urging of her then-boss, Rep. Andy Jacobs, in the 1970s. Twenty years later, Carson succeeded Jacobs in the House. She compiled a mostly liberal record and was known as a backer of organized labor.

A date for a special election has not been set, but because Carson announced she would retire, candidates have already started campaigning for the seat. Marion County Treasurer Michael Rodman is the only Democrat to have announced a bid, while State Rep. Jon Elrod is running on the GOP side. The Democratic nominee would be favored, as the district gave 58% to John Kerry and 55% to Al Gore.

Carson Out In Indiana

Rep. Julia Carson, an Indianapolis Democrat first elected in 1996, announced she will retire from Congress today after disclosing that she has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer this weekend. Carson has not been in Washington since September, when she was hospitalized with an infection.

Carson's chief of staff told the Associated Press that she hopes to be back in Washington after the New Year.

Carson has faced several close races in recent years, despite the strong Democratic tilt of her Indianapolis-based district. Her poor health largely prevented her from campaigning, and she's won by fewer than ten points even as John Kerry carried the district by sixteen and Al Gore won by twelve points.

Republicans are interested in the seat, but it would likely be an uphill battle with Carson out of the race. Still, the GOP did well in and around the city in 2007, when a virtually unknown Republican knocked off powerhouse Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson and the GOP took control of the county council.