Carson won a Special Election and then fought off a wild primary field that year before winning an easy victory for his first full term in Congress. It’s been a journey for the man who once rapped under the stage name of Juggernaut. I’m actually, full disclosure, honored that I have been able to call the big guy my friend for eight years.
I met André shortly before the nominating caucus that made him the Democratic Party candidate for the special election. I admit, as I have before, I was skeptical to turn the 7th District Congressional seat over to a man with so little experience at the time.
I talked with Carson over the phone, and I immediately connected with him. Instead of discussing his position on trade or what I thought he needed to do to improve the economy, we talked about music and what toys we played with when we were younger. It was a good conversation, but I felt as if I knew David Orentlicher just a little better.
When it came time to vote at the caucus, David Orentlicher was my choice. David O. had been a state representative for years, and I knew him well. I knew his position on a myriad of issues, and I also knew he had a great deal of experience. He was and remains a brilliant candidate for Congress, and he just gave it another go in the Primary in 2016. The votes were counted, and David Orentlicher didn’t win. In fact, André smoked everyone on the first ballot.
To congratulate him, I was going to leave him a voice mail. I dialed his number, and I was shocked when I heard that big booming voice on the other end, “Jon Easter…what can I do for you man?”
I had made it known that I was an Orentlicher guy, so I told André congratulations, and, “I’m with you now. Whatever you need from me, you let me know.”
Carson said, “Great. Let’s go!”
Ever since that day, that’s been my relationship with the Congressman. He’s been there for me whenever I’ve called, texted or sent a social media message. He’s been on my radio show. He’s asked me for advice. I’ve asked him for advice. He’s helped me with issues with my mother’s care. Carson has been the kind of friend to me that transcends the political side of things.
To me, he’s André and, to him, I’m “Big East”. Reminds me of the relationship I had with his grandmother who called me her “Decatur Boy”. That’s an entirely different story. Needless to say, it’s really hard for me to objective when it comes to my friend André.
I have been. There are times we’ve disagreed. I’ve even called him out on the blog. Whenever we see each other next, he always thanks me for what I wrote and treats me just like always. Congressman Carson is a good man.
So, I can’t lie. I’m proud of my Congressman. I’m proud of my friend. I’m proud of the way he’s helped lead the fight to improve veterans’ healthcare when they come home from war. I’m proud of the millions of dollars he’s been able to redirect back to our city for road and street repairs. I’m proud of the funds he’s been able to secure for homeland security. I’m proud of the work he does for working people in trying to save our jobs and making the 7th District a place companies want to come to and build.
I’m also proud to have watched him start as one of 435 and grow to become a leader in not only the Congressional Black Caucus but the Democratic Caucus at large. I’m proud my friend stands up for me as a member of the Congressional LGBT Caucus even though he’s not gay. He’s one of the best allies our community has.
When I considered running for Senate District 35 in 2012, I was on the fence. My mother, who was still living at the time, told me not to do it. Other friends were pushing me to go for it. I was stuck. I called Congressman Carson and asked for 15 minutes of his time. He was busy, but he told me he’d call back. About 40 minutes later, there was André’s number popping up on my phone, and he gave me the best advice possible. He said that the only person that knew if I should run for sure was me. He also suggested that if I even had to ask the question then maybe there was my answer. I thanked him, hung up the phone, and I decided to follow my mother’s advice.
Now, that doesn’t mean that Congressman Carson doesn’t rib me now every time he sees me about running for office again, “When are we going to see you on the ballot again, Big East?”
I guess I get to see a different side of my Congressman than most do. To me, he’s my friend André, and I hope you’ll give him another two-year term in Congress. He works hard for you, and he cares.