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Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Democrats have only themselves to blame

March 8, 2019

ShabazzUsually, when there are allegations of disenfranchising voters or restricting Hoosiers’ right to vote, it’s Democrats making those allegations against Republicans.

Not this time.

The Marion County Democratic Party, under the leadership of Kate Sweeney Bell, used procedural moves to keep at least two young African-Americans off the ballot and reportedly scared off two more from participating in the upcoming May primary.

You might have seen the story in the Indianapolis Business Journal regarding Belinda Drake and Derris Ross. The two wanted to run in City-County Council Districts 13 and 14, respectively. Drake was going to run in the seat being vacated by the disgraced former council president, Stephen Clay. Ross was going to challenge incumbent LaKeisha Jackson, who voted for Clay as part of a coup attempt last year against Maggie Lewis.

However, because neither Drake nor Ross had voted in a Democratic primary, they were not allowed to run because Bell would not sign off on paperwork attesting that they were “good” Democrats.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I briefly assisted Ross and Drake with their legal fight for ballot access before they decided to withdraw their names from nomination as Democrats.)

Now please note, Drake is a Democratic precinct committee person who was actually appointed by Bell in 2018. She volunteered for the party and congressman Andre Carson. Meanwhile, Ross is about as progressive as you can get. These are young people that a political party should be happy to have, as they have the energy and enthusiasm needed to keep it vibrant.

However, Bell did not see it that way. People close to her say it’s not personal, just how the county party operates.

No offense, but this is one of the most politically idiotic moves a party chairman can make. Even if there were a concern about these two, it would have been easier to let them run, probably lose, and then they would have gone back to from whence they came.

Instead, all Bell has done is kick over a hornets’ nest and get a lot of people worked up, and who knows what they will do? Will they stay home, which could hurt Mayor Joe Hogsett’s re-election chances? Ross and Drake are running as independents and they only need the signatures of a couple of hundred registered voters in their respective districts to get on the ballot. As you are reading this, they are both working to make that happen. I am also told the two other candidates who were scared off the ballot are planning to do the same.

And here is the irony: These guys are (according to Bell) not good Democrats; however, the Democratic councilors who conspired with Republicans to remove Lewis and install Clay—who, by the way, installed members of the GOP as chairman of several committees—all got a pass.

Please tell me in what alternate political universe any of this makes sense. I can tell you: none.

Instead of letting these two get ballot access and letting politics runs its course, things are about to get a lot uglier real quick.

Usually, it’s Republicans who get the blame for voter suppression and disenfranchisement. Not this time. This time, the blame falls squarely on Marion County Democrats and they have no one to blame but their leadership.•

Click here for more Forefront columns.

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Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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