Andre Carson's greatest political asset may be his grandmother's name, but one of his biggest liabilities is proving to be her funeral.
The 7th Congressional District encompasses much of Marion County. Here are estimates about the district drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2003 American Community Survey:
That's because his family gave a spot in the parade of dignitaries who eulogized Congresswoman Julia Carson to Louis Farrakhan, whom Jewish leaders consider one of America's leading anti-Semites, gay rights activists consider a homophobe and who famously referred to white people as "devils."
In recent weeks, Andre Carson has been reassuring Jewish leaders here and in Washington that Farrakhan's appearance wasn't his idea. He has spoken publicly about his distaste for discrimination, homophobia or racism of any kind. He has talked repeatedly of his desire for unity.
But the Farrakhan episode also called attention to something that went largely unrecognized before -- that Andre Carson is a Muslim and that, if elected March 11, he would be Indiana's first Muslim representative in Congress and only the second in U.S. history.
How his faith will factor with voters, if at all, is unknown. But in a post-September 11 world, it has led some of his own campaign advisers to interject, without being prompted, that Andre Carson is not an Osama bin Laden Muslim. And since the funeral -- which included Farrakhan's own plug for Carson's candidacy -- the young Carson has been trying to explain that he also is not a Louis Farrakhan Muslim.
Carson says his faith is just part of who he is. "It is not the totality. Like every other human being, I have various faces," he said. "I am multifaceted."
He does, indeed, have many faces: raised Baptist, taught in Catholic schools, introduced to New Age transcendentalism by his grandmother and hired to work in government counterterrorism operations. (MORE)