Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Ellsworth Making Progress on Progressive Issues
At the Indiana Democratic Party State Convention back at the end of June, there was a moment that I became a strong supporter of Brad Ellsworth.
In the Stonewall Democrats Caucus Meeting, ISD President Lori Morris raised her hand and thanked Ellsworth for his support of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Then, Ellsworth said what turned me into a strong supporter.
"I voted for the repeal because it was the right thing to do," said Ellsworth. "If voting for what's right sends me home then so be it."
After dealing with a Democrat like Evan Bayh for the last 11 years in the Senate where he voted many times for what was popular with the Indiana electorate rather than what was truly right, I can appreciate what Ellsworth said. I don't agree with Brad Ellsworth on every issue. But, as Ellsworth said in his convention speech, "That's okay." If he will conduct himself as a Senator by voting for what is right more than what is popular, I think he will have a long career there.
Ellsworth will never be Ted Kennedy. It's not going to happen. That's not necessarily a bad thing in Indiana for his electoral fortunes. Take LGBT issues, for example. He may never come over to the right side of the gay marriage debate, but he says he's open to civil unions. When you talk to leaders within the Indiana Stonewall Democrats, you find out that Ellsworth and his campaign want to make further progress. I'm told that Ellsworth wants to learn, and you could see that process happening at the State Convention.
There was a moment that could potentially have been catastrophic for Ellsworth. In that Stonewall Democrats caucus meeting, he said he loves to celebrate the diversity of the Democratic Party. He talked about all the actual and political diversity in the House on our side of the aisle whereas there is little of that diversity on the Republican side of the aisle.
He then started to tick off the caucuses and constituency on our side, "I don't think we have a gay caucus though. Well, we have Barney Frank," said Ellsworth. Quickly, Ellsworth realized his gaffe. He was quickly informed that not only was there an LGBT caucus but that his own colleague from the Indiana Congressional Delegation, Andre Carson, is a member of that caucus.
For a moment, you saw the horror on Ellsworth's face. Then, he recovered, "See, I'm learning every day." It was a real moment that could have been worse for Ellsworth, but he rolled out of it.
After he spoke, I walked out in the hall, and I spoke with Ellsworth face-to-face. We talked for about 10 minutes. He remembered me from when I met him at the IDEA Convention in French Lick, and I thanked him for his vote on health care and the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.
It wasn't a typical meeting with a politician I don't really know that well. Ellsworth continued to talk with me even after his handlers tried to pull him away. I finally ended the conversation saying, "I think I'm holding you up Congressman."
That's why I think Ellsworth is serious about listening to folks and learning about issues he may have not needed much understanding on when he was the Sheriff of Vanderburgh County or the Congressman from Indiana's 8th District. Running statewide and for the Senate is a different beast altogether, and I think Ellsworth is making progress on being a bit more progressive.
I think he's for real, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. If you're on the fence, I hope you'll give him the same chance.
In Other Ellsworth News
The Congressman announced that his campaign had exceeded its fundraising goal. I haven't seen the numbers, but it will be interesting to check out how much he has raised.
The campaign also released a pretty decent first ad. It hits all the major themes so far of his campaign, Sheriff...Zero Tolerance for Bull...Outsider...Not a Lobbyist...On Your Side.
What do you think?