I think exclamation points are way overused, but the candidate list for Indiana’s U.S. Senate race next year may have earned one. I had a chance to briefly talk to two friends this week: one who is thinking about running for the Senate, and another who just entered the race. Politically they don’t have much in common, but I am glad they are both in the game. We all should be. The old boy network on either side of the aisle doesn’t want either of them in the race. That’s just too bad boys.
John Dickerson, the longtime, and now former executive director of The Arc of Indiana, announced his candidacy on Saturday in front of an enthusiastic group at Shapiro’s downtown. That makes him the second Democrat candidate, joining Baron Hill, the former congressman from Seymour. It also makes Dickerson the boat rocker. And he is gonna be a good one.
Dickerson is a unique candidate in many ways. First, he knows people. A lot of people. From Auburn to Evansville, he has met and advocated for Indiana families. Second, he is recognizable like no one else in the field. The former college football player is usually the tallest guy in the room and his notorious mane of hair makes it hard for him to hide. Third and most refreshingly, he has never run for office.
All of that matters a little, but none of it matters as much as what I see as his strongest traits. There is no question that he will do the right thing. Yes, it will be his version of the right thing, but he will not be tempted to stray from his values. Count on that. His strength of character cannot be challenged. Don’t waste time or energy trying.
He will support policies that promote fair wages, economic equality, services to those who need them, partnering the business community with environmental advocates, a woman’s right to choose, etc. We have all heard of people like this. They are called Democrats.
We should all be glad he has climbed aboard.
Still standing on the dock is another friend of mine, and the dozens of people who read my weekly rant might be surprised that we are pals. State Senator Mike Delph is a classic boat rocker and he belongs on this boat as well. He is considering entering the race, which would make him the fourth Republican on that side of the ballot. Already in the race for the GOP are Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young, both of whom are giving up their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the run. Rounding out the field is Eric Holcomb, retiring Sen. Dan Coats’ former chief of staff and the former chairman of the Indiana Republican Party. In other words, the field is full of the establishment. Senator Delph might sound like part of that club, but for anyone following his legislative career, we know that nothing could be further from the truth.
Delph has taken a hard line in the Indiana Senate, to his own political detriment, more than once. The first one I recall was his controversial attempt to pass legislation establishing penalties for Indiana companies who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The idea, and his relentless pursuit to pass the bill, created a uniquely diverse coalition to oppose it. His commitment to the idea never waned, even after it became personally and politically prudent to walk away. Next, his now infamous Twitter rant regarding the Senate Republican Caucus’ refusal to restore the resolution establishing a ban on gay marriage to its original form found him outside the Caucus for a period of time. He seemed ok with the fallout as far as I could tell.
Agree with him on policy issues or not, Sen. Delph is willing to sacrifice personally for what he believes is right. He was my senator for 8 years before I moved in 2013, and I can attest that he is as good as it gets when it comes to constituent services. And the GOP establishment doesn’t want him in the race. I really hope he runs.
Both Dickerson and Delph are good candidates. The last time I checked, they don’t need permission from the old boys clubs to run for office and I am glad neither one of them is asking. Dickerson has already climbed aboard. Delph’s wife and five daughters are in charge of his decision committee. They ought to be. Both men are legitimate contenders and both are capable of serving Indiana well.
Politics is an odd career choice. Building up your resume by serving in office and running for the next higher office is how most would map out a path to success. But it is also how our ballot options keep looking so similar every year. Excitement about a candidate is hard to muster when he or she only makes it to the ballot after the decision makers within each party have ordained them as ready for prime time. Those “decision makers” don’t change often enough. With primaries on both sides of this one now, I am particularly happy that voters get to do the nominating next year.
For those in either party’s establishment who don’t think these two belong in the race, I suggest you get yourselves new life jackets. The boat will be rocking, and after it levels off, we can be thankful to guys like these for their roles in the process. And if either pulls off the big win, the boys clubs might just sink.