|Headed to Washington: "The battle's not over," Andre Carson told cheering Democrats at the Westin Hotel Downtown. "Friends and family, we have to hit the ground running." - Joe Vitti|
Democrat Andre Carson won Tuesday's special election to succeed his grandmother, the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, and fill out the final 10 months of her term.
Carson's win makes him the first Muslim to represent Indiana in Congress, and only the second Muslim nationwide to serve there.
Carson's 54-43 percent win, with 100 percent of the vote tallied, over Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod, was strong. But it might not have been the type of knockout blow that would fend off the competition he faces in the May 6 primary.
The campaign for that election, a mere 55 days away, begins today.
He now must win the trifecta of not only Tuesday's special election, but also the May primary election and the November general election to win a full term in Congress and be more than a footnote to his grandmother's legacy.
"The battle's not over," Carson told cheering Democrats as he declared victory at the Westin Hotel Downtown. "Friends and family, we have to hit the ground running."
He was speaking about the issues he'll be tackling as the newest member of Congress, including seeking an end to the war in Iraq and spurring new jobs for Indiana. But the words rang true for his political future as well.
The competition will be steep. Three of the seven Democrats who have filed to run against Carson in the May primary election will be well-known and well-financed: state Reps. David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays, and former state Health Commissioner Woodrow Myers. Myers, in fact, is holding a news conference today to preview his TV ads.
While Carson and the Democrats celebrated, Elrod and the Republicans never conceded defeat Tuesday night. Leaving the GOP state headquarters, Elrod said he wouldn't concede until all the votes were counted.
As he left to head home, the 30-year-old Elrod added, he was "too tired" to talk about the whirlwind campaign he'd just been through, or the one he now faces. He has not given up his hope of being the first Republican elected to Congress from this district since 1975 and will be competing against two other little-known Republicans for the GOP nomination in May.
At the Westin, Carson was jubilant.
"We did it! We did it! Thank God we did it," he said, each line punctuated by a roar from the crowd that packed the hotel ballroom. "I want to thank each and every one of you for your sacrifice, hard work and efforts. This isn't about me. It's about you. I'm not going to Congress. We're going to Congress."
He wished, he said, his grandmother, who died of cancer Dec. 15, was there to see this moment.
Someone shouted back: "She is here."
Carson, a 33-year-old who won his first election last year to the City-County Council, called this win an "extremely humbling experience."
"Tonight's victory is a great indicator of the atmosphere of the 7th Congressional District," he said, noting that people want Social Security protected, jobs, health care and, for the troops, an end to the war in Iraq.
And although much has been made of his faith as a Muslim -- as well as the fact that controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was among those who eulogized Carson's grandmother at her funeral -- Carson said his campaign had benefited from volunteers who crossed all age, racial, religious and social backgrounds.
Tuesday's win for Carson was especially sweet for former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs. He had been a mentor to Julia Carson and had backed her to replace him when he retired in 1996 and had been the first prominent Democrat to endorse Andre Carson as her successor.
Jacobs had spent much of Tuesday out campaigning for Carson and was among the Democrats who gathered at the Westin to celebrate the win.
"It dries a few tears about his grandmother," Jacobs said.
Among those congratulating Carson was Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, who is hoping to become the first black man elected president and who will be competing in Indiana's May primary himself against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I know Andre, like his grandmother, the late Congresswoman Julia Carson, will be a tireless fighter for Indiana's working men and women," Obama said in a statement. "I look forward to working with him in Congress to bring our troops home, keep our country and our communities safe, and ensure all Americans have the affordable health care they deserve."
The legacy of his grandmother worked both for and against Carson in Tuesday's election.
Bob Nichols, 56, an airline employee, cast his ballot for Elrod at a Speedway polling site that Elrod visited Tuesday afternoon. The reason, he said, was simple: He wants change.
Nichols said he's had enough of the same names in politics -- whether it's Carsons, Clintons or Bushes -- and thinks it's time for new blood.
But Fran Colston, an 85-year-old voter, said she had always backed Julia Carson and now was happy to vote for Carson's grandson.
"I've been aware of Andre for a long time because of his grandmother. He's a wonderful person. So was she," Colston said. "He's just really interested in people. That's very important to me. He is just down to earth."
Tuesday's elections had few glitches. Seven polling places opened late, two of them more than an hour behind schedule. But all 445 polling sites were open by 7 a.m.
Related posts from similar topics: