SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Before the Indiana primary earlier this month, Republican races for the U.S. Senate and House nominations received most of the media -- and public -- attention. Now, it seems, the campaign on the Democratic side for the 5th Congressional District really deserved eyes-wide-open scrutiny of its own.
Tim Crawford, who will be 29 on June 1, took on Dr. Nasser Hanna, a lung cancer specialist at the Indiana University School of Medicine, in the primary, prevailing by 61 percent to 39 percent. With the slogan "Choose the person, not the party!" Crawford trounced Hanna, who had been endorsed by the Indiana Democratic Party, the District 5 Democratic Committee and other groups.
To say Crawford isn't a typical Democrat seriously understates the situation. A self-described ex-Republican and "independent conservative," he's closer in sympathies to the Tea Party movement than the political lineage of Jefferson, Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt. Under "issues" at his website, he counts himself "pro" on eight concerns (including life, arms, immigration reform, and states' rights), while being "anti" on six other matters (big government, national identification card, mandatory health insurance and government corporate bailouts among others). No detailed policy statements for this candidate; brief bullet points suffice.
Crawford, however, is able to write in complete sentences, as he did the other day (again on his website and with a link on his Facebook page) in explaining why he was staying in the race after announcing he was withdrawing from it. In this remarkable document, surely one of the strangest during a strange midterm year, he's both personal and political -- and in each case puzzlement seems the only appropriate reaction.
To avoid the charge of quoting someone else's words out of context, here is the entire letter:
To whom it may concern,
My name is Tim Crawford. I am a 28 year old conservative American running for the United States House of Representatives in Indiana's 5th district. I am writing this letter to provide voters and the media with knowledge, explaining what happened from my point of view. This is a chance for people to get to know me and make judgment righteously.
On May 22nd, 2010, I attended a meeting at the Fishers Public Library with the Hamilton County Democratic Women. I will be honest in saying I was not prepared. My mishap, in turn, has offered me a valuable and humbling lesson. I have taken some time to step back from the situation that arose, thinking about it with calmness and logic. This group of women invited me to their gathering to meet me. Eventually things got out of control, forming into a one sided show for disapproval of me.
After being bombarded by disagreeing group interjections, I was flustered and felt bullied. This led me to make an irrational and provoked response that I was dropping out of the race. I believe this was their agenda all along. Due to the situation, and my personal circumstances, my emotions had been building for a while and got the best of me on that day. After talking to friends, family and supporters, I am not dropping out of the race. This group did not support me personally or befriend me until I told them I would step aside. Why should I let their will and influence override my dream for our country?
As I grow, while continuing to learn politically and personally, I must follow this candidacy through. I left college without a degree and it is more important to me to finish what I have currently started. I will not give up on the fight for a fair and noble existence. I am taking a strong stance against quitting and I pray this stand will not be in vain. We all need to be reminded that politicians are only human, mistakes will happen, and no one is perfect. I want the people who agree and disagree with me, to go through this campaign learning that the grass is not greener on this side. Then people might think before they bash, allow truths to prevail, and eventually bring media spin to a screeching halt. We have to start working together to achieve common goals, without breaking the vows of the United States Constitution, and stand up for the principle ideas the founding fathers have set before us.
First, I am hesitantly bringing a very personal fact to light. I hope it explains my recent lack of preparation and concentration, as well my emotional actions. Recently, my mother was diagnosed in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. This cancer is usually found in its advance stages, often inoperable, and spreads, as it has in her case. Pancreatic cancer is terminal, painful, and she could have less than a year to live. During the downturn of the economy, in July 2008, I moved in with her after being let go from my job. I currently live with her now and I have become her caregiver. In the recent weeks, I have been driving her daily to radiation treatments at the IU Medical Center, helping her pick up prescriptions, and handling miscellaneous tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking, etc. I thank God we have family and friends that have also stepped in to assist in comforting an amazing women, and a great, loving mother.
She has both good and bad days that fill our daily routine. The Saturday morning of the meeting, she was having one of her bad days. While hovered over the sink vomiting and in pain, she stated she'd be fine and encouraged me to go to the meeting. My departing vision and emotional state, as I walked out the door that day, was obviously focused on my mother's well-being.
There have been few moments of joy for my mom since our family has received news of this diagnosis. One was watching me win the democratic primary in early May. Another was finding out that my brother Jacob and his wife Megan are expecting a child in November. Lord willing, I hope my mother lives long enough to see her first grandchild and hopefully, me winning a position in Washington. I am asking everyone to pray for my mother. She and I both believe in miracles.
Mothers are typically the biggest supporter of their children. In this case, it is so. She is the first person I talked to about the scenario that happened at the HCDW meeting. The first thing she said was, "You can't quit!" "Quitting is giving up on the people who voted for you, support you, and believe as you do." And I totally agree.
My personal situation was something I originally did not want to bring into the mix of this election. I am not telling the public about my mother's illness so I can achieve or obtain voters through sympathy. I find it to be unfair to the opposition. I just want people to understand my predicament. I am not a pity party person and I strive not to live a woe is me lifestyle. I want to run a clean campaign where the voters decide based upon character, intent, and beliefs. I want to be as bipartisan as I can be without jeopardizing morals and our American fundamentals.
Next, I would like to address the people I met at the Hamilton County Democratic Women meeting. I hope you can find forgiveness. I am setting aside ego and apologizing for going against what I told you. It was something I should have never said, and I hope we can all learn from this. I feel that dropping out of the race would be turning my back on the people who do support me and may support me in the future. Quitting is not the noble thing to do. I will take your advice and learn more of what your group stands for. Either common bonds will be found or evidences that point to the latter will be offered. Expect an update to the website soon. We may not always agree, but I wish you would continue your involvement and keep searching for the truth as well.
Everyone should keep in mind that there are times when people can get set in their ways. We must focus on the repercussions of our actions, as I have learned through this experience. As I try to keep an open mind, I implore others from all parties to do so as well. My ongoing mission will be to diligently investigate and gain all the knowledge I can. My duty is to prepare for this position and seek the best possible solutions for this nation's recovery.
As an ex-republican, in order to voice the possibility of compromise, I am running under the democratic ticket to serve as a medium between parties. This is supposed to be the position of the President, Vice President and the Speaker of the House. I feel they, as well as many of our current elected officials, have failed in this task. The best way to battle failures in government is to keep the tree of liberty refreshed. A new generation of politicians needs to be voted into office now, and from time to time. This should help correct errors and overturn any wrongs that have been set before us.
I hope God's grace is with us all, as we move forward as a nation, and in our individual lives. I thank you for your time.
The phrase "Too Much Information" might apply for several sections of this confession-cum-battle cry, but it's the penultimate paragraph that deserves some deconstruction. How often do we see someone running for Congress a first time wanting to serve as a "medium" because elected officials of the candidate's chosen party are not doing their jobs effectively enough? Is it any wonder why the Hamilton County Democratic Women might have registered their collective "disapproval"?
Crawford's opponent in November is 14-term Rep. Dan Burton, who managed to win 30 percent of the Republican vote in the seven-person primary. One rival received 28 percent, an indicator of Burton's vulnerability.
Burton, of course, is an absorbing political study in his own right. A down-the-line conservative, he was one of President Bill Clinton's most vocal critics during the impeachment imbroglio -- until Burton's fatherhood of a child out-of-wedlock came to light. During the 1990s, he also enjoyed a certain celebrity by promoting his view that Clinton friend and deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster, was murdered -- and not a victim of suicide. The lawmaker even staged a re-enactment of his theory by using a gun and a pumpkin.
Should there be any debates in the 5th District come fall, political reporters will probably be ill-equipped to cover them. A team of abnormal psychologists might do more justice to figuring out what each candidate considers most relevant and significant to serving in Congress.
Robert Schmuhl is Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair of American Studies and Journalism at the University of Notre Dame, where he directs the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy.
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