Carson aides keep Indiana’s 7th cooking

After working as former Rep. Julia Carson’s senior legislative assistant for the three years before her death, Sara Williams says she often sees glimpses of the late Indiana Democrat in her current boss, the congresswoman’s grandson.

Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) is advancing his family legacy with the same warmth, commitment and mannerisms as his grandmother, Williams said.

“He not only has her same convictions while certainly having his own interests, but he has so much of her in him,” Williams said. “He sounds like her sometimes and he kind of looks like her. It’s been nice to have that continuity from a staff standpoint, to have seen and worked with both Carsons.”

Williams was recently promoted to legislative director after coming to work for Andre Carson last year as his senior legislative assistant following his grandmother’s death.

Williams, 31, says that the transition from the elder to the younger Carson was “bittersweet” and that she’s taken on her new responsibilities with enthusiasm, tackling the wide gamut of issues that fall under Indiana’s 7th district, home to Indianapolis, the state’s largest city.

“There definitely continue to be additional things that I need to learn,” Williams says of her new position. “Where before they weren’t my issue, now everything is my issue. And I have to know everything. There’s nothing that the congressman can ask me about that I should not know the answer to.”

Carson also recently promoted legislative correspondent Nathan Bennett to staff writer. Bennett now handles the writing of everything from press releases to constituent letters.

Bennett, 23, and Williams say they work well together as she helps him stay on top of the array of issues he needs to write about and he punches out flawless paragraphs in a fraction of the time she would take.

“Nathan is a phenomenal writer and he learns quickly,” Williams says. “He’s so quick and good and factually correct. What would take me an hour to write, he can do in 10 minutes.”

Bennett and Williams have different methods for accomplishing their goals, they say.

While Bennett will devote extra care in writing an e-mail to Williams about an issue, Williams has no problem shouting her response over top of the office cubicles.

“I’m not quite as used to yelling over the cubicles as probably I should be,” Bennett says with a smile.

Both are Indiana natives. Bennett comes from the more conservative city of South Bend; Williams from the liberal-leaning West Lafayette.

“People love the congressman in my area,” Williams says. “At least in my circle of friends and my parents’ circle of friends.”

Says Bennett, “My friends don’t [love Carson]. When they find out I’m a Democrat, they’re not really happy.”

Bennett and Williams also share a penchant for the kitchen. Williams has gained office renown for her chocolate chip cookies, which she says she’s perfected over the years using a secret ingredient that no one else in the world knows. And just as Williams trumpets her baking skills, Bennett has tried to keep his below the radar to refrain from having to cook for the whole office. But when Williams discovers his savvy for cooking risotto, she tells him, “You need to share the love.”

To which he responds, “See, that’s part of the reason I didn’t say anything.”