In tribute to Julia Carson

August, 1968: Democrats convene in Chicago to nominate candidate Hubert Humphrey, who lost the Presidential seat to Republican Richard Nixon later that year. Four years later, as a result of extreme disunity in the Democratic Party, at all levels, a new wave of Democrats entered into the Indiana political fold. That year, Julia Carson presents her candidacy for Indiana House of Representatives. Carson defies party convention: she breaks the slate, she wins her primary, she defeats her general election opponent, and she becomes the first candidate of color to represent District 45 in the Indiana House.

What is “the slate”? Great question. Every election year, the Marion County Democratic Party hosts a closed-doors meeting where Democratic candidates try to win the votes of party officials who will determine the party’s endorsement for the upcoming primary. This meeting is unique to our local party, it is not commonplace in any other comparable city, and it is literally super-delegates at the local level. I am in staunch opposition to any measure that undermines the principle of one-person-one-vote.

To attend the Marion County Democratic Party slating convention, candidates pay a hefty fee of ten percent of their future salaries should they be elected. When some of my neighbors experience significant financial hardship, can’t keep their lights on, or even put food on their tables, I cannot justify utilizing constituent contributions- almost fifteen hundred dollars, in fact- to fuel this party initiative, and I call on my primary opponent to forego attending the slating convention, as well. It’s best for the future of our party and the future of our neighborhoods.

I stand for progress, at every level, and I have much respect for Julia Carson and her contemporaries who committed their lives for progress in Indiana. I am left to wonder, had the Marion County Democratic Party abandoned this archaic process in 1972, what would our political landscape for Democrats look like today?

Would our City-County Council still feel emboldened enough to offer private entities control of our most basic processes in my hometown? Would Indiana usher in her third Republican governor in a row? Would our local government pave the way for a discriminatory bigot who now sits in the White House?

My friends, my neighbors, and my future constituents: I am beholden to my community, not to my party, and I vow to be a trusted advocate for all voices, even when it’s not most politically expedient- and I firmly believe that Julia would have wanted it that way.

(AP Photo/Tom Strattman)