|John Cougar Mellencamp, shown here considering the ramifications of the estate tax
Senator Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana announced his retirement from Congress on the eve of the filing deadline in the Hoosier state. In Indiana, Senate candidates are required to submit 500 signatures from each of that state’s districts by the filing deadline in order to appear on the ballot. However, no Democratic candidate was able to accumulate the required signatures in the day between Bayh’s announcement and the filing deadline. Still, Democrats will get to field a candidate. Indiana election law provides “a candidate vacancy for United States Senator or a state office shall be filled by the state committee of the political party.” This announcement leaves the Indiana Democratic Party’s executive committee in control of selecting a candidate to replace the two-term Senator.
Bayh’s retirement may have come as a shock but an even bigger shock could result from the selection of Bayh’s replacement. The current Democratic frontrunner is Congressman Brad Ellsworth, but the blogsophere is abuzz with rumors of a possible celebrity replacement for Bayh. Indiana resident and reality tv star made famous from “The Girls Next Door” Kendra Wilkinson has some grassroots support for the position. Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for the people of Indiana, Ms. Wilkinson is two years shy of the age requirement to become a US Senator.
Another celebrity who could be a more serious contender for the seat is musician John Cougar Mellencamp. The Indiana resident is an ardent champion for social change, and he made frequent forays into the political realm with appearances at campaign events during the 2008 Presidential election. When the John McCain campaign used Mellencamp’s songs “Our Country” and “Pink Houses” at events during that same election cycle, Mellencamp asked them to stop using his song because he supported the Democratic candidates. A look at the lyrics in “Our Country” demonstrates Mellencamp’s support for the poor and the common man. The song advocates:
That poverty could be just another thing
and bigotry would be
Seen only as obscene
And the ones that run this land
Help the poor and common man
This is our country.
Mellancamp is also a founding member of Farm Aid, an organization that raises awareness about the plight of the family farm.
Mellencamp would not be the first unlikely candidate to join the ranks of the Senate. Former Saturday Night Live alumni Al Franken defeated incumbent Republican Norm Coleman during the 2008 Minnesota Senate elections. Mellencamp may lack the resume of Senator Bayh, but do not count him out of the race just yet. He boasts a Facebook group, Draft John Mellencamp for Senate, with more than 5,000 supporters backing his official jump into American politics. Last month, film critic Roger Ebert tweeted, “John Mellencamp (D-Ind.) has a nice ring to it.”
Mellencamp has not issued a release about his intentions to run for Senate but with his growing online support, the Democratic Party of Indiana may want to tune their dials to a Mellencamp nomination.
Martina Mills is a student at William & Mary Law School