No love lost as 2nd District hopeful turns from Democrats
Posted: 01/06/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
He lashed out at Democratic leaders as hostile and insufficiently supportive of his bid for the 2nd District post, to be vacated by Democrat Joe Donnelly.
“I felt embraced by NO party leadership as I started out,” Straw said in an e-mailed response to a series of queries about his decision to go Green. Among others, he singled out Shari Mellin, chairwoman of the Elkhart County Democratic Party, and Butch Morgan, former head of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party.
Mellin, Straw said, “left a threatening voice mail implying that I should not cross the state Democrats and questioned my mental state for not falling in line with their decisions.”
Morgan, meanwhile, came under fire from Straw for what he characterized as his strong-armed leadership and his support of Brendan Mullen, the remaining Democratic hopeful for the 2nd District post. Morgan, who resigned his party post last October, “is all about unity under his dictatorial rule, principle or justice be damned, and he damned it on many occasions,” Straw wrote.
For their part, Democratic leaders here reject any suggestion they had it in for Straw.
John Broden, the new head of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party, said he suspected Straw’s move to the Green Party stemmed more from the strength of Mullen’s candidacy. Straw announced the switch Monday.
“I never sensed animosity or antipathy toward Andrew Straw specifically,” said Broden. “It was more like, ‘Wow, can you believe this Brendan Mullen guy?’”
Mellin recalls the “threatening voicemail” from last summer that Straw singled out. The message stemmed from the state Democratic Party’s decision to deny Straw access to a database of voter information after he apparently misused the data and seeming rifts between Straw and other Democratic officials.
“I meant it merely to be advice,” said Mellin, rebuffing any suggestion she’s “a threatening message type of person.” “You’re stepping on a lot of toes of people you’re going to need if you’re running for office.”
NO LOVE LOST
Whoever you listen to, there’s obviously no love lost in the aftermath of Straw’s move to the Green Party.
“I think it’s a good decision on his part. He obviously was not comfortable running as a Democrat,” said Mellin. “It probably is better he does run with the Green Party.”
Straw, meanwhile, offered a stark contrast between the Democratic and Green party responses to his candidacy.
“The moment I declared as a Green, the Green state party was promoting me, embracing me, helping me,” Straw said. “I had policies drafted on labor and medical marijuana within hours. It seems that the level of coldness I received in the Democratic Party was flipped over as warmth when I joined the party that loves my campaign: the Green Party.”
The Republican hopefuls for the 2nd District seat are South Bend physician Greg Andrews, LaPorte businessman Mitch Feikes and Jackie Walorski of Elkhart, a former state representative.
Donnelly will vie for the U.S. Senate instead of the House. He had fought off Walorski last year in winning re-election as rep to the 2nd District, which will include all of Elkhart County under redistricting.
In charging that he wasn’t getting a full dose of love from Democratic Party leadership, Straw may not have been totally off the mark.
Broden, the head of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party, noted that he, personally, contributed to the Mullen campaign and he speaks glowingly of the candidate, a South Bend native and U.S. Army veteran who served in the Iraq War.
Ben Ray, press secretary for the Indiana Democratic Party, offered no comment on Straw. But he pointed to an article in the weekly Kokomo Perspective newspaper reporting that the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee had endorsed Mullen.
Mellin said the Elkhart County Democratic Party has not endorsed any candidate in the Democratic primary for the Second District seat. That’s the norm for primary races. At the same time, she didn’t dispute Straw’s use of the word “tepid” in characterizing his view of her support for his candidacy.
“Tepid is probably a pretty good analysis of my support,” Mellin said. Straw, in his e-mail, said Mellin has been “anywhere from tepid to hostile.”
‘DISHONEST,’ ‘ILLEGAL’ BEHAVIOR
On the other hand, Straw hadn’t exaclty embraced other Democrats. He had pushed hard to discredit Mullen in his bid for the Democratic nomination and had been particularly critical of Democrats in South Bend.
Among other things, Straw railed against Mullen because he was apparently registered to vote in both Washington D.C. and South Bend at the same time. There’s no indication Mullen voted in both places simultaneously.
Mellin pointed to Straw’s apparent use of the Indiana Democratic Party voter database to dig up information on Mullen’s voting record. That seems to have irked Democratic leaders and ultimately prompted them to pull Straw’s access to the information, according to Mellin.
In a Nov. 7 posting on his Facebook page, Straw alluded to the alleged use of forged signatures in South Bend in 2008 to get the Democratic presidential hopefuls that year on the primary ballot. “It appears dishonest and illegal behavior permeates the party leadership,” Straw wrote.
Then this week, Straw expressed a measure of glee that Morgan, the former head of the St. Joseph Democratic Party, ended up resigning last October in the wake of the signature scandal. Straw had earlier called for Morgan’s resignation, in part because of limited accessibility for the disabled at the South Bend Democratic headquarters.
“I am so happy that after my requesting his resignation, Butch (Morgan) was finally caught up in the forgery scandal, so justice pounced on him,” Straw wrote in an e-mail this week.
In resigning, Morgan said he didn’t want to be a distraction, but denied any wrongdoing. Likewise, Broden said no Democratic official has been criminally charged in the matter and that Democrats have cooperated in the ensuing investigation.