Political Miscellany 6/20/08

The Hill reported plans by Barack Obama to meet with his fellow Congressional Black Caucus members on Thursday (6/19). Relations within the CBC are said to be strained due to the hotly contested presidential primary. Many members of the CBC backed Sen Hillary Clinton, even though black voters overwhelmingly supported Obama.

Obama previously met privately with a group of religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, and Rev Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The meeting was held to solicit their input on national and world issues, and not necessarily to get their endorsements.

About 30 people were at the meeting. In addition to Jakes, three other prominent members of the black church were present: the Rev. Stephen Thurston, head of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., a historically black denomination; the Rev. T. Dewitt Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which was home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders; and Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin Sr., an A.M.E. clergyman and former NAACP board member.

Other reported attendees were conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer Doug Kmiec; evangelical author Max Lucado of San Antonio; Cameron Strang, founder of Relevant Media, which is aimed at young Christians; the Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA; and Paul Corts, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. Consider the case of Sen Barack Obama and Georgia congressman John Barrow.

Barrow, a white moderate-conservative Blue Dog Democrat, represents Georgia’s 12th congressional district, which includes Savannah and parts of Augusta. The district is 44% African American, but in the Democratic primary, blacks can cast almost 70% of the vote. Barrow hasn’t faced opposition from an African American candidate in his previous primary elections, but he will now.

Regina Thomas, a black Democrat in the Georgia State Senate, has announced that she will run for the seat. Thomas claims that Barrow votes too often with Republicans, and that she is the “real Democrat” running in the election.

Barrow endorsed Obama’s candidacy in February, back when Obama was still trying to rally support from so-called superdelegates such as Barrow. Barrow is also one of 14 national co-chairs for Obama’s 50-state voter registration drive.

Obama is now supporting Barrow’s election run. As noted in the Savannah Morning News, the Barrow campaign is airing radio ads featuring Obama. “We’re going to need John Barrow back in Congress to help change Washington and get our country back on track,” Obama says in the ads. “He’s … standing up to the … Republicans who go right down the line with George Bush.”

What are Thomas’s thoughts on this? “People have their own minds,” she said. “I’ll win whether Obama, Bush or Clinton endorses him. My record speaks for itself. So does John’s. He votes the Bush agenda.”

One note: Barrow won in the 2006 general election by less than one thousand votes over Republican Max Burns. This is a very competitive district, and there is a legitimate concern that white voters will unite around the white (Republican) candidate if Thomas wins.

The Democratic Party was overjoyed by the recent victory of Don Cazayoux in Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, which includes the city of Baton Rouge. The 6th district had been held by the Republican Richard Baker since 1986. Baker vacated his office in February, and the state of Louisiana held a special election to fill the seat in May. Cazayoux won, beating out Republican Woody Jenkins, and will represent the district through the end of the year.

However, there still needs to be an election to fill the seat for the term that runs from 2009 through 2010. And this is where things get complicated.

Many black Democrats in Louisiana are upset that the state and National Democratic Party haven’t been supportive of black candidates running for congressional and state-wide offices.

Things got so bad that an associate of Louisiana state representative Michael Jackson sent out “robo-calls” to Baton Rouge’s African-American neighborhoods on the day of the May special election, telling voters to “teach white Democrats a lesson” by staying home and not voting. Jackson, who had not approved the calls, had to step in to have the calls stopped.

And now Jackson is threatening to run in the November general election for the 6th district as an Independent. Jackson has reportedly run television ads stating his intention to run in the November general election.

If Jackson does run in the November general election, it could have a devastating effect on the Democrat’s chances of holding onto the seat. Cazayoux and Jackson would probably split the Democratic vote, making it easy for the Republican to get the plurality of votes and win the election.

But on the other hand: Cazayoux and the Republican candidate – who almost certainly will be white – could split the white vote. And if Jackson could get the more votes than either white candidates, he could win the election outright, even if he only gets a plurality of the votes. (In Louisiana, there is no requirement for a runoff election where a candidate must get the majority of the votes.) The 6th district’s population is 33% African American.

And that explains why Jackson might be willing to run what is a high risk but dangerous campaign as far as the Democratic party is concerned.

Black Republican Tim Scott is poised to make history. He is about to become the first African American Republican to serve in the South Carolina state legislature since Reconstruction.

Scott, a businessman who chairs the Charleston County Council, won 53% of the primary vote against two white challengers in South Carolina’s 117th House district, which is reportedly predominantly white and rural. Scott is virtually assured of winning the general election in November, because the Democratic Party will not have a candidate for the district.

Scott will bring a pro-business agenda to his position. “Small business is the backbone of the country. It’s the greatest hope, other than Jesus Christ, for the African-American in South Carolina,” he said.

Rep. Leon Howard, chairman of the South Carolina legislature’s Black Caucus, sounded a note of caution concerning how state Republicans would react to Scott. “We’ll have to see how much legislation he actually gets passed. We’ll see if he’s taken seriously by the Republicans and he gets things done or whether he’s used more ceremonially. I don’t think Tim is the kind of guy who would let that happen but we’ll have to wait and see.”

The Associated Press has an interesting story about Black Conservatives who are conflicted over the Barack candidacy. Guys like Armstrong Williams, Rep. J.C. Watts, General Colin Powell, Senator Edward Brooke are wondering aloud if they should vote for Obama, despite his being a Democrat.

This led black conservative blogger (and USAF vet) Juliette Akinyi Ochieng to challenge the manhood of these so-called “castrati” (“the castrated”):

With 90+ percent of black Americans voting Democrat regardless of who the candidate is, it will be bad enough as it is. But I, for one, expect you, black conservative Republican men to have enough balls to stand on principle, not on your emotions. You’ve shown your testicular fortitude by being publicly conservative against a tide of Identity Politics. Don’t start behaving like castrati now.

Larry Sinclair, who has been smearing Barack Obama with a slew of scurrilous charges, was arrested on an outstanding warrant after giving a news conference in Washington.

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