LEADING QUESTIONS: Carson talks Congress, whips, soft rock

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Welcome to the latest installment of  “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses and civic leaders to talk shop about their latest challenges and the habits that lead to success.

Andre Carson, 36, is tracing a trajectory in U.S. politics similar to President Barack Obama's, albeit a less spectacular arc. Barely known in political circles just a few years ago, the former Indiana State Excise Police investigator joined the City-County Council in 2007 to fill a seat vacated by Patrice Adbullah. In 2008, he won a special election for Indiana's 7th Congressional District seat and succeeded his recently deceased grandmother, U.S. Rep. Julia Carson. After serving on the House of Representatives' high-profile Financial Services Committee in the aftermath of the recession, the freshman congressman won re-election this year.

In the video above, Carson discusses his strategy for making an impression in his first term in Congress, which boiled down to "keep your mouth shut and listen." He still managed to make an impact on his peers, being named whip for the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as regional whip for the Democratic caucus for the 112th Congress. One of two Muslim congressmen, Carson also discusses how his faith comes into play at the Capitol, as well as how he deals with fellow congressmen who make inflammatory remarks about Islam on the stump.

Carson grew up in the near-north area of Indianapolis now known as Fall Creek Place. His role models included his grandmother, who served in the House from 1997 to 2007. In the video below, Carson makes a musical comparison between himself and his grandmother, invoking both Justin Bieber and Frank Sinatra. Married to a prominent local educator, Mariama Carson, and the father of a 4-year-old daughter, Carson describes how he fits family life into his intense work schedule. To relax, he cranks up soft rock, classical music and jazz on his iPod.


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