By Congressional Quarterly
Carson's rise from poverty to the halls of Congress has been precipitous but not without occasional personal pitfalls. In Washington, Carson will be a more consistently liberal vote than her predecessor and former boss, Democrat Andrew Jacobs Jr., who retired.
Jacobs hired Carson away from a secretarial job at the United Auto Workers' Indianapolis local at the start of his Hill career. After working as a caseworker for Jacobs for eight years, Carson launched her own successful political career, first winning election to the Indiana House in 1972. She moved on to the state Senate, where she served on the Finance Committee. She received an assignment to the Banking Committee for her first term in Congress.
An unreconstructed believer in the power of government to effect good, Carson most recently served as head of the Marion County Center Township Trustee, which administers relief to the poor. Carson campaigned heavily on her achievement in reducing the debt of the trustee's office.
Her GOP opponent, former state Sen. Virginia Blankenbaker, sought to make political hay of the fact that Carson had enjoyed a 63.5 percent increase in salary over the five years she served as trustee. Blankenbaker also noted that Carson's daughter and two grandsons had worked for the agency. And Indiana Legislative Insight, a political newsletter, reported that about two dozen registered voters listed the agency's office as their home address.
Although administrative costs soared under Carson, she was able to trumpet her success in turning around the agency's finances overall. She cut the nearly bankrupt agency's bond debt from $13.66 million when she took office to less than $3 million by 1996. She also cut local taxes and lowered the number of people on relief rolls from 77,000 to fewer than 38,000 in 1995.
She attributed her success in turning the office around to requirements she imposed that put able-bodied recipients to work for vouchers. That policy lent Carson some political cover during the 1996 campaign, when she opposed the federal welfare overhaul law.
Carson favors universal access to health care, although she opposes a nationalized delivery system. She also contends that spending money on education, particularly in the area of computer learning, is cheaper and more productive than building prisons.
Blankenbaker, who held liberal positions on such issues as abortion and capital punishment, sought to portray Carson as too liberal for the district. She ran ads saying that Carson, who is ambivalent about sentencing guidelines, was too soft on crime.
Carson's main opponent for the Democratic nomination, former state party Chairwoman Ann DeLaney, also sought to portray herself as tougher on crime than Carson. But the tactic held less promise for Blankenbaker, whose husband had chaired the city's public safety commission, after an August 1996 incident in Indianapolis, in which several drunken Indianapolis police officers verbally accosted passersby and beat two of them, resulting in indictments and headlines nationwide. These events crippled local GOP candidates, and may have contributed to Carson's success at turning out her supporters.
Carson, who is the first African-American to represent Indianapolis, owed her victory over DeLaney to her ability to turn out voters in inner-city precincts. Carson has consistently been underrated by pollsters and her opponents, but her organizational skills have left her undefeated politically.
Carson worked a variety of jobs as a youngster to help the family make ends meet, including stints dressing hair and working on a farm. She eventually landed a job as human resources director at Cummins Electric, using her savings to open a dress shop in Indianapolis that failed and left her saddled with debt. She had her wages garnisheed as a state senator to partially pay off the losses. It was reported in 1990 that she owed $10,000 in property taxes and penalties.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
Kansas - Senate (Short Term)
Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
Born: Sept. 12, 1956, Garnett, Kan.
Education: Kansas State U., B.S1979; U. of Kansas, J.D. 1982.
Occupation: Teacher; lawyer; White House aide; broadcaster.
Family: Wife, Mary; three children.
Political Career: Kan. secretary of Agriculture, 1986-93; U.S. House, 1995-96.
By Congressional Quarterly
When Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas made his surprise announcement in the spring of 1996 that he would resign his Senate seat to focus on his ultimately unsuccessful presidential bid, Brownback was quick to act.
The outspoken House freshman, who had already established a campaign organization for his expected House re-election contest, instead announced his candidacy to fill the last two years of Dole's term, and began airing campaign advertisements.
But any easy path to the GOP Senate nomination was hampered by a bitter split in the Kansas Republican Party between moderates -- such as Gov. Bill Graves -- and conservatives. Brownback had gained much of his political support from the conservative wing of the party.
Graves nominated his lieutenant governor, Sheila Frahm, also considered a Republican moderate, to fill the next several months of Dole's term.
A special primary was set for Aug. 6 -- the same day as Kansas' regular congressional primaries -- and a special election was scheduled for Election Day, Nov. 5.
Brownback and Frahm staged a nasty primary battle that overshadowed a far quieter primary on the Democratic side between stockbroker Jill Docking and former Gov. Joan Finney. It also stole the spotlight from Kansas' regularly scheduled Senate race, the open-seat contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, which Rep. Pat Roberts eventually won.
The Brownback-Frahm brawl shaped up as a showdown between the two factions of the state Republican Party, although both candidates shied away from ideological labels.
Frahm called herself a conservative, although she was perceived as having more moderate views on some social issues like abortion. Brownback, meanwhile, said he was gaining support from party traditionalists as well as movement conservatives. A third candidate, accountant Christina Campbell-Cline, was also in the race.
The Republican primary proved fruitful for the state party's conservative wing. Not only did Brownback defeat Frahm, but two conservative House candidates defeated their more moderate primary opponents in competitive open-seat races -- including the contest for the Topeka-based 2nd District seat being vacated by Brownback.
Brownback moved on to his general election contest with Docking, who had easily won her primary. While she was a political newcomer, Docking bears a famous name in Kansas politics. Her husband, Thomas R. Docking, served as Kansas' lieutenant governor, and his father and grandfather were both Kansas governors.
Democrats hoped Docking, who espoused a centrist message, would be able to attract moderate Republican voters. The matchup between two relatively young, articulate candidates attracted national media attention.
But Brownback was able eventually to garner support from such prominent moderates as Graves and Frahm, and he kept Dole's Senate seat in Republican hands.
While well-known in Washington as a leader of his freshman House class, Brownback was little-known statewide -- except to farmers -- when he started his Senate campaign.
But Brownback, a former state secretary of agriculture, reached out aggressively to business and conservative social groups to build a grass-roots coalition that reflected his recent embrace of right-wing positions on everything from government spending to abortion rights.
Brownback, a lawyer, has long been a fiscal conservative. But unlike most House Republicans elected in 1994, he refused to sign the House GOP's "Contract With America."
When it became clear that many of the conservative Republican positions were winners, however, he quickly also expressed support for cuts in education spending and environmental regulations and for restrictions on abortion rights.
A member of the House Budget Committee, Brownback spent much of his energy on the effort to balance the budget, and expects to continue that theme in the Senate. He was a leader of the New Federalists, a freshman group dedicated to keeping the leadership focused on balancing the budget.
Another key issue was campaign finance reform, an area in which he did not always please the Republican leadership, many of whom were resistant to putting limits on campaign spending. But Brownback, who is wealthy, worked with Republican freshman Linda Smith of Washington to force a vote on a bill that would have overhauled campaign finance laws. The 104th Congress never passed a campaign finance bill.
Enacting a limitation on congressional terms is another of Brownback's causes, and he was a strong proponent of a constitutional amendment to limit House members to six terms and senators to two terms.
Brownback -- who assumed his Senate seat in late November, ahead of his classmates -- won a prized seat on the Senate Commerce Committee, and his other committee assignments include Governmental Affairs. On Commerce, he hopes to work on issues including product liability reform, trade, aviation and telecommunications. On Governmental Affairs, he expects to continue his efforts to reform the federal government structure.
He is likely to align himself politically with his home-state colleague, Roberts, especially on issues particularly important to Kansas, including agriculture, aviation and energy.
Brownback also will swell the ranks of staunch conservatives who strongly back Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
At the same time, Brownback may deviate from a strictly conservative line on some social issues, such as immigration. During the 104th Congress, he opposed efforts that would have significantly curtailed legal immigration.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
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