As Belinda Drake stood in front of family, friends and supporters Dec. 5 at a community center to officially launch her campaign for state representative, she was celebrating more than a kickoff party.
Drake was starting fresh politically and trying to move up in the process.
Drake was one of two Black candidates barred earlier this year from running for a city-county council seat as a Democrat. Drake and fellow candidate Derris Ross had never voted in a primary election, which is part of the process for municipal candidates to verify their affiliation with the Democratic or Republican Party.
Drake, 34, didn’t gather enough signatures to make the general election ballot as an independent and said she knew by late summer that she wanted to run for the state House of Representatives.
But after not mounting the necessary support to get on the ballot for a city-county council race, why does Drake believe she can now take aim at the Indiana Statehouse?
Drake wouldn’t say how close she was to getting on the general election ballot but said her confidence in this new and larger political venture comes from the conversations she had with people in her community.
“We all have to start somewhere,” she said, “but serving is not about starting here or starting there. It’s what you’re called to do. It’s what the community calls you to do.”
The campaign launch party was at Hornet Park Community Center on the southeast side. Drake told the audience, sitting in two rows of round tables with #BelieveInBelinda signs, about being born into poverty in Gary and her journey to become an activist.
“I’m a strong Black woman,” she told them from a podium with no microphone. “I know what it means to be resilient. I know what it means to fight.”
A big bonus for Drake this time around is that she’ll be running officially as a Democrat. Her campaign manager, Amanda Schutte, gave Drake credit for sticking with the party.
“Rather than deserting the party and walking away from the things that she stood for, she learned,” Schutte said.
Drake would represent District 89, which includes some of the far east side and stretches southwest to Beech Grove. The district is currently held by Republican Cindy Kirchhofer, and it’s unclear if she will run for reelection. Kirchhofer could not be reached for comment. The filing deadline is Feb. 7, 2020.
Drake’s campaign has filed to form an exploratory committee, with plans to officially file for her candidacy in January.
Drake dismissed the idea that she’s abandoning local politics because she felt wronged by the party, comparing her outlook to how she approached a basketball career that took her to IUPUI and introduced her to Indianapolis.
“If I continue to focus on the last game, we’ll never win the next one,” Drake said.
Drake won’t go into next year’s election as a political novice. Other than running for a seat on the city-county council, Drake has also worked with state Sen. J.D. Ford and was an intern with Congressman André Carson’s office.
Still, she will be seen as a political outsider who’s never been elected to office. Drake rejected the idea that there is such a thing as the right kind of experience that qualifies someone for political office.
“I think that now is the time for an everyday person who cares about the issues that are affecting House District 89, as well as a majority of Hoosiers, to finally take office,” she said.
The first issues she would address, Drake said, include the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, which could raise revenue to pay for infrastructure programs and universal pre-K.
It is believed Drake would be the first openly gay Black woman elected to the Statehouse. Sen. Ford was the first openly gay lawmaker elected in 2018.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.