Bil Browning

The Marion County Democratic Party has lost its collective mind

Filed By Bil Browning | May 02, 2008 1:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
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NOTE: Updated with documentation of party rules after the jump.

No joke. On Monday, I reported about a letter I received from MCDP Chairman Mike O'Connor threatening precinct committee people with repercussions if they support any candidate other than the officially slated candidates. Imagine my jaw hitting the floor today when I received another letter from the Party. This one reminded me of the Howler letters from the Harry Potter series, only not as well written. Not only was this letter more angry and desperate, it even resorted to using slang.

What needs to be clarified is, that ONLY one candidate running in the primary for the 7th Congressional District paid to enter the slating convention as a candidate. That candidate was Andre Carson. Those who ran in the Special Convention (David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays and others) were eligible to participate in the Slating Convention but did not. Please note that Dr. Woody Myers chose not to run in either the Special Convention or Slating Convention - completely dissing (emphasis mine) the Democratic Party as a viable organization. Only Andre Carson signed a slating agreement and paid a fee of $8105 to run as a candidate...

Is "dissing" a word commonly used in professional correspondence? It seems to me that a "viable organization" like the MCDP would be able to send a simple letter with proper English.

It goes down hill from there. In fact, it sinks pretty damn low pretty damn fast. The rest of the letter and a few thoughts on slating after the jump.

Isn't it great how they name every candidate running against Carson and make sure they tell you how much he paid for his spot on the ballot? Its beginning to look like a pay-to-play deal when they start quoting dollar amounts.

Were the other candidates welcome to run for slating? Sure. Would it have been a wise choice for any candidate other than Carson to do so? Hell no.

For a little perspective, let's talk about the timeline. On January 11, 2008 MCDP held its Special Caucus to select who would run in the Special Election to replace the late Rep. Julia Carson. One month later on February 16, MCDP held its Slating Convention. This slating convention took place less than 30 days before the Special Election on March 11, for which Carson was the only candidate on the Democratic ballot. In other words, slating occurred between the Special Caucus, which Carson had already won and the Special Election, in which only Carson was allowed to run.

First and foremost, what message would it have sent to voters if Andre Carson won the Special Caucus, but the party decided to slate another candidate 30 days later? It sure wouldn't be saying keep the Democrat in this seat, that's for sure. Why would the MCDP reverse a decision it had made only a month prior and show weakness less than a month before the special election? Seriously?

So basically, David Orentlicher, Carolene Mays and Woody Myers should have each done their duty for Carson and coughed up their collective $24,000 offering to the MCPD. The outcome of slating was a foregone conclusion. What sense does it make for a campaign to fund its opposition by giving MCDP, and certainly by extension their competition, so many of their hard raised dollars? Any candidate who would have ran for slating and thrown away their money is too stupid to deserve be my congressperson.

The primary is in May, which is after the Special Election and with the assurance that the seat is safe in Democrat hands. This is the appropriate time for good Democrats, who are better qualified for the job, to tell other good Democrats how they differ from Carson and why they'd be the better choice in November.

I'd stop here, but the letter goes on. At least this time, they didn't focus only on the 7th District Congressional race. 9 Democrats ran for 8 slots for judge. They don't name the candidate by name, but they do reference her gender and make sure you know she's listed first on the ballot.

This year someone has filed against our recommended candidates for judge and unfortunately, this person's name appears first on the ballot. It should also be noted that this individual did not even bother to go through our slating process and only went to one or two township club meetings. She has shown no respect for our slating process which has proven to be a balancing tool to assure that all segments of our population were properly represented.

The letter further devolves into pointing out the race of three of the judge candidates with assurances that the judge slate is "racially appropriate" and a passing mention that the entire MCDP slate is "highly diverse and qualified."

I'm still waiting for gays and lesbians to be counted in the "highly diverse and qualified."

It is signed by State Rep. William Crawford, Marion County Auditor and MCDP Vice Chair Billie Breaux, former MCDP chair Ed Treacy and former Deputy Mayor and Carson Treasurer Melina Kennedy.

What an odd group to sign the letter. A Carson staffer, a State Representative, the former MCDP chair, and - of all people - Marion County Auditor and former State Senator Billie Breaux. I don't remember the circumstances, but if memory serves me, Bill Crawford helped another candidate run against the slate in 1992 with some success.

Senator Breaux owes her very political survival to running against the slate to keep her seat in 1992. As far as I know, that's the last time anyone successfully ran against the slate. Incidentally, she pulled off this win with the help of none other than Julia Carson. When I questioned her about this at a recent dinner party, she insisted "this is different."

The point is, bucking the slate is a very common and thoroughly democratic practice, but this letter makes it sound like the most treasonous and heinous crime committed against the party in history.

Hogwash.

This is nothing more than arm twisting bully tactics because the polls show Carson in a tight race to hold onto his seat. Rather than ensure good Democrats get elected to grow our majorities and flip our minorities, the MCPD is contributing to the bitterness and division that seems to have engulfed the primary process this year. They are advocating only for those who have paid them an entrance fee - and disparaging others who didn't.

That's mob tactics. You gotta pay for protection or the family turns against you.

In the end, this hurts all Democrats. It turns off the faithful, discourages the ground troops, and shits all over some fine public servants all at the same time. Reminding people of their duties is one thing, but issuing threats and casting aspersions on others is something wholly unhealthy and unbecoming of a major political party.

UPDATE: For those interested, here are the rules as set forth by the Indiana Democratic Party, which are the guiding principles for all county parties in the state.

From "Rules of the Indiana Democratic Party" located at: http://indems.3cdn.net/79c372d6d7fc7e8003_q4m6bh3qg.pdf

Rule 11, section K lays out the duties of the precinct committee persons as follows:

1. Inside his or her precinct, the precinct committeeperson's duties include:
A. Polling residents;
B. Registering voters;
C. Maintaining a current poll list of voters;
D. Identifying and assisting absentee voters to register;
E. Promoting Party candidates; (notice it doesn't SLATED candidates)
F. Operating an election day organization;
G. Encouraging voting by persons preferring Democratic Party candidates;
H. Recommending persons for the precinct election board;
I. Recruiting volunteers for the Party;
J. Attending training and other party-building activities sponsored by the State Committee;
K. Reporting periodically on the state of the Party to the county chair or his or her designee.

2. The precinct vice committeeperson shall assist the precinct committeeperson with these duties.

3. The precinct committeeperson is encouraged to appoint chairs for polling, voter registration, social activities, and finance.

That's it, my friends. The state party sets the rules and the county party is just a committee of the state party. I could find no written rules on the county party website.

Notice under section E it says PCs should promote PARTY candidates. That means ANY Democrat, not just the Democrat selected by the powers that be in your county party. It is not disloyal to support an non-slated candidate and it is certainly not something any good Democrat should fear repercussions over.

For all intents and purposes, it is the MCDP who is violating party rules here, not these other candidates or the PCs and VPCs who are supporting them.

Read the full letter from the Marion County Democratic Party [pdf].


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