Last Tuesday, Tim Crawford won the right to challenge Dan Burton in November for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District seat by defeating Nasser Hanna in the Democratic primary. Crawford got 9,934 votes (61%) to Hanna’s 6,381 (39%).
I've met Hanna twice and was very impressed, but I hadn’t met or heard about Crawford. To win so handily, though, Crawford must have been formidable, right? I decided to investigate to see if I could pinpoint Crawford’s campaign strength.
1. Policy Positions. Perhaps, I thought, Crawford’s policy positions were more in line with the district, and he did a better job laying them out. I went to his website and clicked on the heading “issues” and got boxes reading, “Pro-Life,” “Pro-2nd Amendment,” “Pro-Free Trade,” “Pro-Right to Work,” “Pro-States Rights,” and “Anti-Cap and Trade,” and “Anti-Mandatory Health Insurance.”
That didn’t sound too Democratic to me, so I clicked on each box seeking his explanations. (Double Click). (Double Click). Nothing. You see, those headings weren’t hotlinks. Those headings were the policy statements in total.
2. PR Campaign. Was Crawford’s media operation better? When I clicked on his website for “news,” it read, “Coming soon.” I’m sorry, but he just won a primary, but he didn’t even have a victory statement?
3. Dollars. Hanna raised $111,000 in the cycle, which is not bad in a strong Republican district. In contrast, Crawford’s website says he won’t take money from donors but would self-finance his entire campaign. If he wants to Perot it, alrighty then. Under federal law, however, any candidate who spends more than $1,000 must register as a “campaign committee.” Crawford hasn’t registered. This means that, as of today, it is almost certain that Crawford has spent less on becoming a congressman this year than I've spent on Redbox.
4. Resume. Tim Crawford went to Vincennes and Ball State but didn’t graduate from either. Crawford wants you know that between 2002-2004, he worked as a server at Longhorn Steakhouse. Between 2005 and now, he’s worked with three different construction companies as an “estimator.” Crawford’s community service experience consists of “playing rugby with the Carmel Dad’s Club between 1996-1999.” Did I mention that, according to Jim Shella, Crawford’s business address is a P.O. Box at a Fishers UPS store?
However could Hanna compete with that?
How about a Bachelor’s in Biology from St. Louis University, an M.D. from the University of Missouri, a residency in internal medicine at the University of Iowa, and an oncology fellowship at IU? Or how about the fact Dr. Hanna is considered a world leader in the treatment and research of lung cancer, is the Chairman of the Hoosier Oncology Group, or runs a non-profit with his wife called “Cancer-Free Lungs” that aims to reduce teen smoking? Did I tell you that the Indianapolis Business Journal dubbed Nasser one of their 40 Under 40, or that he has a picturesque family (Crawford makes no reference to anybody but himself).
5. Party Service. Every once in a while, you get a guy who isn’t about high fallutin’ credentials, deep pockets, or media savvy. He’s just the guy everybody knows because he's laboring in the trenches for the party. Maybe that’s how Crawford won. Oh, wait. Crawford admitted to Shella that he has worked during past elections as a Republican party judge and just voted Democrat in 2008 as a ballot tactic.
Folks, what’s left except for the obvious and ugly truth? An awful lot of Democrats in the 6th District of Indiana are too xenophobic to vote for a guy named Nasser, even though he was born and raised in a small town in Missouri. I can envision some of their Ritz voices now. “Nasser? Rhymes with Yasir! Guy might be a terrorist!”
Understand that this is not a blanket indictment of the Democratic Party. In fact, the leadership of the party – the county chairs, ward chairs, and the precinct committeepersons of the 6th District – overwhelmingly supported Dr. Hanna. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Keith Clock said of Crawford, “He’ll find no support from our party at all.”
But the party can’t absolve itself completely either. Nearly 10,000 people who self-identify enough with the Democratic Party to ask for a D ballot in an R-dominated district and, in so doing, forfeit their chance to vote in a Republican Congressional primary where their vote might matter, passed on a guy for no other reason than his name. (In the future, if you don't know the candidates, don't vote).
What I find most tragic about last Tuesday is that in 1998, Bobby Hidalgo Kern, a man who was convicted of forgery and who would periodically impersonate a female judge he admired, won the Democratic Party primary for what was then Indiana’s 6th Congressional District.
Kern’s opponent was R. “Nag” Nagarajan. Need I say more? Why do that when I can just quote the 6th District Chair at the time, Allan Raches:
Nag is a fine candidate, but his name conjures up some Middle East monster for voters, I guess.”
The then-6th, now 5th District of Indiana hasn’t progressed in the past decade, and it’s a shame that should hang over the entire party until we address it.
Lest Republicans take delight in this post, know that you’d do worse. You just haven’t found out because you can’t even recruit someone with a name like Nasser Hanna to run on your ticket.
But Democrats have to take the log out of their own eyes.
To Dr. Hanna, I want to apologize twice. First, I apologize for some in my party who haven't embraced inclusion. While I would certainly feel demoralized were I you, I hope you will realize that this result is precisely why you are so desperately needed as a Democrat – so that you can continue to do great things, stay active in the party, and root out some ingrained prejudices. But, second, I want to apologize for not telling you when I met you to spend your money now and not take somebody with better ballot placement for granted.
As I wrote yesterday, having a strange sounding name might not get you beat if you’re known, but it sure will if you aren’t.