Recently, I decided to contact State Sen. Mike Delph to see if he would be interested in sitting down for an interview with me for a story in Current in Carmel. I wasn’t so interested in debating him on his political stances or try to analyze the issues on which he focuses. That’s important for journalists to do but it’s done by so many other media outlets. I was more interested in what makes him who he is. He’s certainly one of the most fascinating people in politics in Carmel and possibly the state.
That’s because Delph has strong stances on issues that can be touchy for some: abortion, gay marriage, etc. When I met him in his office at CarDon & Associates, where he serves as general counsel, Delph told me he was once told that he should never run for office because he sees things as black and white.
“Do you think that’s true?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” he responded without hesitation. “That’s how I’m wired.”
He doesn’t believe in gray area. I quizzed him about exceptions when it comes to abortion, such as rape or incest because that’s a hot topic in debates, even among conservatives. He’s remains steadfast.
“It’s a life,” he said. “It’s that simple to me.”
Delph can certainly be a polarizing figure statewide. Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully described the attention that Delph has received thusly:
“Good and bad headlines. Head-scratching headlines, at times. Headlines that have made Delph a pariah in some quarters and a champion in others.
For good or bad, Delph is a rare state lawmaker who has something close to a household name. That’s what happens when you launch high-profile crusades on behalf of your conservative causes, when you go on a weekend Twitter rampage, and when you battle so hard with your own party’s leadership that they publicly punish you. Or when you fight for a return to class basketball and for tougher ethical standards in the Statehouse.
All of it has made Delph one of the most interesting people in Indiana politics. And it’s made him quite the wild card as the race for next year’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination takes shape.”
One of those headlines that Tully is referring is a conflict with his own party. He was disappointed in Republican leaders not putting HJR-3 on the ballot, which would helped settle the issue of gay marriage in the state of Indiana in Delph’s mind. He lashed out at party leaders on Twitter leading Senate President Pro Tem David Long to punish him by stripping him of his ranking within the GOP caucus and his press secretary. To add further insult to injury, they made him sit with Senate Democrats.
It came after Delph criticized the media and the “self-absorbed Godless culture that is fast-tracking our nation to ruin.”
Obviously, this has made Delph a well known opponent of gay marriage. They media wrote numerous stories about his stance on that issue, even interviewing his brother Stephen who is openly gay.
While many people respect him, Delph readily admits that some people don’t like him very much.
He said he’s received nasty comments – some on the verge of a threat. It doesn’t bother him, except when people bring up his family, which he said has happened.
“You can say anything you want about me, but don’t bring up my family,” he said. “I can’t guarantee what I’ll do if you come after my family.”
Delph married his college sweetheart Beth, whom he met through religious activities at Indiana University. They homeschool and have five daughters, the two oldest of whom are in college.
For Delph, his family is everything. His mother, Sharon, basically raised he and his three brothers by herself because his father wasn’t around. Delph openly admits this has strongly shaped his views on family.
Delph is very protective of his wife and daughters. When I asked to stop by his house to take photos of him and his family to accompany my article in Current in Carmel, he showed some reluctance. In fact, the same day I met with him for an interview at his office, he insisted that he have a meeting with his wife before I came to the house. All we were going to was take photos, but they are protective around the press, so Mike and Beth Delph stopped by for dinner when I was waiting tables at my family’s restaurant. They ended up talking to my dad for about an hour, about politics and about their family.
They told me a story that really emphasizes how they think they worry about their kids.
Back on Aug. 15, Delph sent out a message on Twitter that said, “I am on the phone with the Carmel Police. We can’t find our 8 year-old daughter Lilly. Half our neighborhood is looking for her now. Help!”
Media outlets picked it up and spread the news. Luckily, he found his daughter safe. She was at a friend’s house and she claimed she asked before she left but it was a scary time for the family. The Delphs were extremely worried because he can be a target for some who don’t like his politics.
Delph never wants anything he says to cause someone to attack his family. Yet he still feels he can’t back down from his beliefs.
His mother Sharon Delph told me over the phone that she was surprised that Mike Delph let one of his daughters attend college at Indiana University-Bloomington because it’s so far from home and he’s so protective.
“I bet he has someone watching her down there,” she told me.
When I did go to the Delph house and take photos, I stood with them on their front porch as Mike and Beth sat in their porch swing. We talked about former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who some people wanted to run for President of the United States. It’s widely believed that Daniels didn’t run because he was afraid of the national media criticizing his wife. Cheri Daniels divorced Mitch in 1993 and married another man. She later divorced her second husband and married Mitch Daniels again in 1997. There was a fear that the national media would attack her for that.
While I don’t have any indication of any such controversy in the Delph household, Beth and Mike Delph are worried about attacks on their family. Since Delph has made “family values” part of his appeal, it’s natural that opponents would try to find anything they could.
Delph wrote to me about his wife: “She doesn’t have a high opinion of the media and doesn’t take criticism of her family well, especially of her husband. Although she is much better in 2015 than she was in 2000.”
Maybe after a few years when his daughters get older and his family is more comfortable in the spotlight, you might see Delph run for higher office. He’s made no secret to me that he thinks that higher office is in his future one day.