I don’t much like labels. When someone identifies himself as a Republican or a Democrat, each of us has his own idea of what that means. Often, we do not interpret those labels in the best light. I have been a Democrat my whole life. Here’s why.
I was born in 1959, just before John Kennedy became President. My parents were among the many who supported him. We were caught up in the excitement of space exploration, the Peace Corps, and the expansion of civil rights. The Special Olympics was founded by Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, and my father, a public health physician, was an early advisor to the organization.
When I reached voting age, I had to decide for myself what my political philosophy was. Much of my early thinking was based on how my parents had voted while I was growing up. It was easy to follow their lead without thinking about it much.
As I grew older, I paid more attention to the political debate. In law school, I gained a deeper understanding of the motivation for the policies. One of my first jobs after law school was as a lobbyist for the Indiana State Medical Association. After two years of monitoring legislation in the Indiana General Assembly, I learned that most elected officials just wanted to serve the public and make decisions on what is best for all citizens. On most issues, there did not seem to be a big difference in the two major political parties.
But on some core issues, I did see some important differences. I saw Democrats fighting to make our government give equal opportunity to all. When workers were facing the enormous pressure of employers, Democrats fought to allow them to organize and bargain collectively. When women fought against their status as second-class citizens, Democrats joined the fight. When minority citizens fought for equal treatment, Democrats helped.
For me, it has boiled down to a question of fairness. I see the Democratic Party fighting to ensure that all people have equal access to all opportunities. All of our kids should get a good education. None of us should have a medical condition ruin us financially.
I still don’t like labels. When I was running for office in Indianapolis, voters would ask what my party is. I would jokingly respond that I am for a smaller, more efficient government, so I am a Democrat. I was trying to say that it is not the label that makes a difference, but what specific ideas we believe in. Fortunately, I was able to back up my response after being elected as Marion County Assessor. I made the office more efficient, caught up on a huge backlog of assessments, and all while saving more than $2 million annually.
I have often thought that if we want an independent judiciary, it should be independent of the major political parties. I advocated for independent judicial nominating commissions before the Indiana General Assembly (Courts and Criminal Code Committee 1/25/2017 (starts at 2:04)). But while we still elect judges, it is impractical to expect party politics not to be part of the process.
If I am elected judge, it will not be my Democratic Party preference that drives my decisions. I will always make sure the court system is fair to all parties, and will always follow the law in making my decisions.