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EDITORIAL: Primary isn't one-party affair: May 6 contest should matter to all

April 28, 2008

Primary isn't one-party affair May 6 contest should matter to all

Primary elections in Indiana are usually fairly quiet affairs. Only about 20 percent of registered voters typically show up at the polls, compared with about 60 percent in the general election.

This year's primary election, though, should be different. There are plenty of reasons to get even the most passive political followers from both parties excited about the May 6 event.

For the first time in 40 years, votes cast in Indiana's primary actually could affect the presidential race. That hasn't happened since Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon were on the ballots.

There is also a hotly contested clash between two Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, including a longtime Indianapolis businessman.

But, if the battles between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama or Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson aren't enough to get you out to the polls, there are other compelling reasons.

First and foremost, voting is a privilege citizens should honor. Beyond that basic rationale, primary elections often provide a golden opportunity that general elections don't. They give party-loyal voters the chance to oust incumbents who they think have overstayed their welcomes-and they get to do so without having to cross party lines.

Take, for example, Rep. Dan Burton, who has been a fixture in the 5th District for 24 years. Burton has come under criticism for years, even within his own Republican Party, for fathering a child outside of his marriage and for missing House votes while he was off playing golf. He was widely ridiculed for his grandstanding performance during the February steroids-in-baseball hearings involving Roger Clemens, prompting numerous pundits from both political bents to call him an embarrassment.

Burton has won term after term in his conservativeleaning district, which encompasses much of central Indiana, because he's rarely faced competition in the primaries. This year is an exception. John McGoff, an emergency room physician and former Marion County coroner, has mounted an aggressive campaign and he's giving conservative voters a viable alternative.

Another fascinating race is brewing in the 7th Congressional District, where Andre Carson recently took over for his late grandmother, Julia Carson.

The Carson family has ruled over this liberal district for a decade, but the new congressman is facing an abundance of competition. Seven other Democrats have signed up to take on Carson, including Indianapolis Recorder Publisher and State Rep. Carolene Mays, former Indiana Health Commissioner Woody Myers Jr. and State Rep. David Orentlicher.

Carson is the front-runner and has received a valuable endorsement from Obama, but Myers and Orentlicher are well-funded and advertising aggresively.

The May 6 primary is shaping up to be one of the most interesting elections in Indiana history. Voters of both parties have reason to do their research, give it some thought, then hit the polls.



To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.
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