Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ellsworth Not Progressive But Formidable in Senate Race

Maybe there was a method to the madness. When Evan Bayh stepped away from his run for re-election to the Senate yesterday, my friends and I were up in arms about the way that he did it. On the face, it seemed like a dirty move to walk away without any time for the Democrats to field a candidate.

Now, with Tammy D'Ippolito woefully short of the signatures needed to make the ballot (she only was able to muster TWO CERTIFIED SIGNATURES from the heavily Democratic 7th Congressional District), Bayh's move looks incredibly smart and helpful to the Indiana Democratic Party as the party can hand select a candidate that will have a clear and open field through the primary and on to the General Election.

The Republicans figure to have a nasty, drawn out, and bitter fight. Former Senator Dan Coats is the biggest name, but Democrats have exposed a soft underbelly that his opponents can attack. John Hostettler has big negatives. That's why I believe that Marlin Stutzman, who has quietly been gaining the support of Indiana Republicans, is such a solid candidate. Don Bates, Jr. and Richard Behney claimed yesterday that they also have signatures to be candidates on the Republican ballot. All of them garnished enough signatures in at least the 7th District to qualify for ballot access in May.

So, while the Republicans scratch and claw it out, the Democrats can calmly pick a candidate to go toe-to-toe with the Republican that survives. What Democrat will that be? There are many possibilities. Amongst the names bandied about have been former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, former State Health Commissioner Woody Myers, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, former Indiana Speaker of the House John Gregg, 9th District Congressman Baron Hill, and many others.

The smart money speculation is seemingly centering around the bluest of Indiana Blue Dogs, Congressman Brad Ellsworth. It's hard to believe, but the wildly popular Ellsworth has been in Congress for four years now building an honestly conservative and principled record in Congress. He is the perfect Democrat for the 8th Congressional District, but he makes Evan Bayh look like FDR, politically. He is extremely conservative and progressives may find themselves choking if he is chosen to represent the Democratic fortunes.

I share those concerns, but I will say this about Ellsworth. Having spent some time with him in French Lick this past August, I was impressed with him. There is something refreshingly not political about him. Unlike Bayh, who seems like a programmed political robot at times, Ellsworth comes across like a REAL GUY. I don't like his views, but I do like him.

At French Lick, I had the chance to be around the Congressman and his staff, and I found the relationship between them to be refreshing. His staff was fiercely loyal. They all referred to the Congressman as "Brad" and not anything else.

As I sat across from the Congressman on the roof of the French Lick Hotel, his staff huddled under blankets under the stars. Ellsworth sipped on a bottle of water, and we talked calmly about anything but our political differences. It was an unbelievable moment. I started to see why he cleaned John Hostettler's clock. He's an excellent politician by NOT being a politician. If it's an act, he's really good, and Republicans definitely will have their hands full with him. He will connect with voters...maybe not progressives, but Republicans and independents. Progressives will have to work with him, but I think he will listen. While he never may be as progressive as we want him to be, I just get the feeling that our differences will be more honest and less political than they were with Bayh.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight, Jon. I have heard good things about him but am a little fearful of his antichoice and sntigay positions. It would be refreshing to have a senator who was warm and human and not a programmed robot. Is this someone we could work with on some of his more blue dog positions? Didn't he vote for the Bart Stupak anti choice amendment in the healthcare bill? Doesn't he oppose repeal of DADT?

Anonymous said...

Anti-LGBT, Anti-choice, basically to right of Bayh which will only help to make sure that Obama's agenda that we all worked so hard for will be dead.

But he's a heck of a nice guy that you'd want to drink a beer with.

Isn't that what they used to say about Bush?

Indy Student said...

Anon 9:50am,
Like it or not, Indiana is a state that leans to the right. You aren't going to get someone as progressive as Andre Carson to a Senate seat unless he was appointed to it. What liberal Democrats have to ask themselves are what issues are important to them and work with the candidate to at least have their voices heard, and then let it be done.

Jon, is Ellsworth anti-LGBT? Was he in the House to cast a vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment? I know Hostettler was, and he voted against it.

Anonymous said...

He voted against hate crimes legislation and has refused to meet with LGBT groups.

Anonymous said...

Indy student, did you work to get Obama elected?

Bayh and the blue dogs stopped his agenda. We haven't been beaten by the Republicans, we have been beaten by blue dog Dems.

Ellsworth is even further to the right than Bayh.

Kiss getting ANYTHING accomplished if he is in that seat, as you said, "like it or not".

Marycatherine Barton said...

If you support USA continual war on the Middle-East, then Elsworth is your candidate for US Senate. Not mine!!

XQRX912 said...

Should Ellsworth be the candidate then Birch Evans Bayh III will have handed the Republicans a Senate seat and a House seat [Ellsworth's]. What more could he do for the GOP? His manner of exiting was his final "ef" you to a political party he was never very comfortable with. His manner of exiting will inflict the maximum damage possible with no corresponding benefit. He proved himself, in the end, to be a saboteur.

Scott R. said...

Hopefully they dont pick Ellsworth. All we need is another obstructionist in the senate. Baron Hill would be alright but he would make a better governor or something else. Better not to toss another democratic seat in congress to the republicans next election (going to be a tough one for congress) too. I didnt really think of this before b/c he isnt a congressman or anything but Kos ran a piece on David Orentlicher thats worth reading: Aside from being qualified, the guy definitely was well liked by Republicans when he was in the state house, or so i hear, but he isnt as far right as Ellsworth & is more like Hill & plus we wouldnt have to give up a spot in congress & hand it to the Republicans!
Also, someone mentioned Nels Akerson. Akerson would be a pretty good candidate too but i wish he had been 'in the political scene' longer so we could see if he could win or not with Republicans & Democrats!