By Judith Cebula
Indiana voters on Tuesday elected a Muslim to Congress, only the second of that faith chosen in U.S. history.
Andre Carson, grandson of the late Democrat Rep. Julia Carson, was elected to serve the balance of her term in the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election.
She died in December 2007, after serving 11 years in the heavily Democratic district.
The younger Carson, 33, a member of the Indianapolis City Council who converted to Islam about a decade ago, will serve out the remainder of his grandmother’s term through calendar 2008. He beat Republican Jon Elrod and a third party candidate with 52 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Elrod.
The first and only other Muslim member of the U.S. Congress is Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, also a Democrat, who is in his first term.
Carson will face a strong challenge against other contenders in a May primary which will determine who runs in November for the next full two-year term in the district which covers most of the city of Indianapolis.
His Democratic opponents then are expected to be two state legislators — Carolene Mays, an Indianapolis newspaper publisher, and David Orentlicher, a lawyer and doctor who is a professor of law and medical ethics at Indiana University School of Law and Indiana University Medical Center.
Carson’s faith had not been an issue in the special election.