Rep. André Carson (D)
Indiana 7th District
Indianapolis, radiating outward from the soldiers and sailors statue in Monument Circle, is precisely at the center of Indiana and is the largest, and most dominant, city in the state. What residents once disparaged as Nap Town has become a thriving metropolis, including the downtown district. The city is the political and governmental capital, industrial and financial center, and the intellectual center of Indiana as well. It is symmetrically laid out: Just to the west of the circle is the state Capitol, to the north is the American Legion headquarters, to the east is the City-County building, and to the south is the Circle Center mall and the RCA Dome (formerly Hoosier Dome). Farther out are some classic and some new Indianapolis institutions: the Indiana University Medical Center; the Convention Center; the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art; Conseco Fieldhouse; and the NCAA’s headquarters. Indianapolis has become the nation’s amateur sports capital, especially for basketball, and it is a popular place for religious conventions. In 2006, a Brookings Institution study found that Indianapolis had the highest job growth of the 25 largest Rust Belt cities. It attracts many young Indianans looking for opportunity. With its strong service economy, Indianapolis continued to experience job growth even as the recession began, although the financial troubles of General Motors had an impact. In June 2009, the auto giant announced the closure of a local stamping plant that employed 760 people.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Politically, Indianapolis has long had robust competition in local and national races. Republicans held the mayor’s office from 1967, when Richard Lugar won it, until 1999. Lugar expanded Indianapolis’s city limits to include all of Marion County in a new entity called UniGov, which made it a solidly Republican constituency. But more recently, affluent young people have been moving to counties farther out, and Marion County has been trending Democratic. In 2004, the county voted for John Kerry by 51%-49%, even as seven surrounding suburban counties gave Bush 70% to 75% of the vote. Barack Obama took Marion County by a stunning 64%-35%. His 107,000-vote margin was nearly four times his lead in the entire state. But Republicans managed to pull off their own upset a year earlier, when management consultant Greg Ballard defeated two-term Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat.
Indiana’s 7th Congressional District includes all of Indianapolis and most of Marion County. It also takes in Center Township, a Democratic stronghold with a large African-American population and a gentrified middle class. But it excludes the affluent, Republican northern edge of the county. The district extends west to include Speedway, where the Indianapolis 500 has been held on a 2.5-mile track since 1911, southward and east to modest neighborhoods, and it includes Amtrak’s largest repair yard, which is in Beech Grove. The Mexican population nearly tripled in size during the 1990s and is the newest immigrant community. The 60% increase in Hispanic-owned businesses from 1997 to 2002 was twice the national average, and in 2007, the Hispanic share of the population was 7.2%. Within these boundaries, the 7th District leans Democratic, and it gave solid majorities to recent Democratic presidential nominees.
Rep. André Carson (D)
Elected: March 2008, 1st full term.
Born: Oct. 16, 1974, Indianapolis .
Education: Concordia U., B.A., 2003, IN Wesleyan U., M.S., 2005.
Family: Married (Mariama); 1 child.
Elected office: Indianapolis/Marion City-Cnty. Cncl., 2007-08.
Professional Career: Investigator, IN State Excise Police, 1996-2005, Investigator, IN Dept. of Homeland Security, 2006-08.
The congressman from the 7th District is André Carson, who won the seat in March 2008, succeeding his grandmother, Julia Carson, who represented the district for nearly 11 years until she died in office in late 2007. He is only the second Muslim to be elected to Congress; the other is Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat.
|André Carson (D)||172,650||(65%)||($141,937)|
|Gabrielle Campo (R)||92,645||(35%)||($38,684)|
|André Carson (D)||66,659||(47%)|
|Woodrow Myers (D)||33,683||(24%)|
|David Orentlicher (D)||29,231||(20%)|
|Carolene Mays (D)||11,011||(8%)|
|André Carson (D)||45,668||(54%)|
|Jon Elrod (R)||36,415||(43%)|
|Sean Shepard (Lib)||2,430||(3%)|
As a child, André Carson was interested in the priesthood, and he studied religion. He also had an artistic side. He wrote poetry as a young man and performed as a rap artist. But his career took him into law enforcement. He got a bachelor’s degree in criminal-justice management from Concordia University and a master’s degree in business management from Indiana Wesleyan. Carson spent nine years as a plainclothes officer of the Indiana Excise Police, which enforces alcohol and tobacco laws. He recalled that his political interest began in 1984, at age 10, when he attended the Democratic convention in San Francisco. There, he heard civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson speak. Carson said that his thinking was transformed by reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and he attended Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March in 1995. In August 2007, at age 32, he won a seat on the Indianapolis City Council, his first elected office.
After Julia Carson died in December 2007 following multiple and lengthy illnesses, her grandson faced significant opposition for the Democratic nomination in the special election, which was held to fill the remainder of Carson’s term. At the January 12 Democratic caucus, André Carson won 223 of the 439 votes; state Rep. David Orentlicher, a lawyer and doctor, got 123 votes; and Marion County Treasurer Michael Rodman came in third with 27 votes. Against Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod, a young lawyer, Carson received extensive assistance from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. On issues, he called for U.S. troops in Iraq to come home “very soon,” endorsed tax cuts for working families, and said that companies should have incentives to keep them from sending jobs overseas. Elrod emphasized aid to small businesses and tougher enforcement of immigration laws, and he called for an end to federal spending earmarks, the special provisions that lawmakers often tuck into appropriations bills. “I will be part of the solution and not part of the problem in Congress,” he said. Carson won, 54%-43%.
Meanwhile, Carson had to continue campaigning for a May primary to determine the winner of a full term. That field included Orentlicher, former state health Commissioner Woodrow Myers, and state Rep. Carolene Mays. Running as the incumbent this time and with an endorsement from Barack Obama, Carson won the primary with 47% of the vote to 24% for Myers, 20% for Orentlicher, and 8% for Mays. In the contest for a full term, Elrod won the GOP nomination. But he soon withdrew and ran unsuccessfully to retain his seat in the state House. Carson faced minimal opposition.
In the House, Carson has established a liberal voting record, especially on economic and cultural issues. When he arrived, he got a seat on the Financial Services Committee and soon found himself embroiled in the debate over the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets in fall 2008. After initially opposing the bailout bill, he switched his position four days later to vote in favor after Obama encouraged him to support it.