Political Miscellany @ 12/2/2008

Greetings. All Other Persons has been out for a while on vacation, but we are back to it. I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday.

OK, we’re just about at the end of the 2008 election season. Here are some political news and notes as we reach the close of what has been an exciting year.

Epic Fail by Black Republican Challenger in Georgia Congressional Election

This is perhaps the ultimate example of throwing good money after bad. The web site OpenSecrets.org discusses a congressional race between two African American candidates in the Atlanta, Georgia area:

Despite raising over four times more than her incumbent opponent, Republican Deborah Honeycutt lost this week by a landslide in the race to represent Georgia’s 13th District. 

Honeycutt, who raised $4.7 million compared to Rep. David Scott’s $1 million, has received a fair share of negative media attention for being a client of BMW Direct, a DC-based fundraising firm.

BMW Direct has come under scrutiny for its strategy of raising handsome sums from conservative donors for Republican candidates who stand little-to-no chance of being elected.

The money raised by Honeycutt is astounding. OpenSecrets.org, which is a product of the Center for Responsive Politics, estimates that “the average cost of winning a House race in 2008 was nearly $1.1 million, based on pre-election finance reports.” Honeycutt quadrupled that level of fund raising for her campaign, and still lost. In no other House race this season did the losing candidate so outspend the eventual winner.

Honeycutt’s opponent, Democrat David Scott, got 69% of the vote, versus 31% for Honeycutt.

The “Vote Shortage” in the Georgia Senate Election on November 5.

In a recent post, I talked about the runoff election for Georgia’s senate seat, which is being waged between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. The runoff election is being held today.

Some post-election analysis of the election voting in Georgia on November 5 shows some very curious numbers:
o President: 1,844,137 votes for Obama
o Senate: 1,757,419 votes for Martin
o All House Races: 1,858,123 votes for Democrats

Martin, a white moderate Democrat from Georgia, got 86,000 less votes than Barack Obama, a black northerner with a liberal background. And that doesn’t make sense. (Note that, even if Martin had gotten that extra 86,000 votes, he still would not have beaten Chambliss.)

In total, there were almost 170,000 more votes for the presidential candidates than there were for the Senate candidates. People are asking, why were there so fewer votes for senator than there were president?

Jay Bookman, writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, notes that

More than 168,000 Georgia voters went to the polls on Nov. 4 and cast ballots for president, then walked out without bothering to cast a vote in the highly advertised U.S. Senate race between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin.

That seems like a lot — an undervote of 4.3 percent.

In North Carolina, the Senate undervote was 1.1 percent of the presidential total. In Oregon it was 3.3 percent, and 2.3 percent in New Hampshire. The only state where the total approached Georgia’s was Louisiana, at 4.0 percent.

So who were these people? Were they Obama voters who just cast their ballots for their favorite and walked out? The evidence for that is weak. In Fulton County, which went for Obama by more than 2-1, the undervote was 2.85 percent, lower than the undervote rate in McCain counties such as Cobb (3.4 percent) and Cherokee (3.1 percent). In DeKalb County the rate was 4.4 percent, about the state average.

What’s significant about Fulton and DeKalb is that they are Atlanta area counties with a large number of black voters.

This might be a result, at least in part, of the failure of DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who is African American, to endorse Martin’s senate bid. Jones, who lost to Martin in a primary runoff in August, has criticized Martin for not supporting Barack Obama’s presidential run. Martin voted for Democrat John Edwards in Georgia’s February presidential primary even though Edwards already had dropped out of the race.

Early voting in the Geogia runoff election is not promising for Martin, as far as black participation goes. Among those who cast their votes prior to today, in the so-called “early vote,” blacks were 22% of total voters. By comparison, blacks cast almost 35% of the early votes prior to the November 5 election. These numbers could mean that black interest in the runoff election is low… and by extension, that Martin’s odds of winning are not good at all.

African Americans Get Leadership Positions in State Legislatures Out West

It seems like the West is best for black state legislators who seek leadership positions. These are the African American legislators who are presiding or leading officers in American state houses:

o Democrat Emil Jones, Jr., President of the Illinois Senate
o Democrat Karen Bass, Speaker of the California Assembly
o Democrat Peter Groff, President of the Colorado Senate President
o Democrat Terrance Carroll, Speaker of the Colorado (starting in 2009)
o Democrat Steven Horsford, President of the Nevada Senate

(Democrat Malcolm Smith is in-line to become leader of the NY state senate, however, his bid for that position is facing difficulties.)

It is notable that African Americans are less than 7% of the population in California, Colorado, and Nevada, and yet, blacks have risen to high leadership postions in their statehouses.

Meanwhile, the black population in the Deep South states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina is between 25-36% of the state total, but none has ever had an African American leader in their state legislatures.

The Wilder Era Comes to a Close in Virginia

Doug Wilder, the trailblazing African American politician from Virginia, is about to end his career as an elected official. In 1990, he became the first African American ever to be elected to governor of an American state.

Wilder, has been serving as mayor of Richmond, Virginia since 2005. He decided not to run for re-election this year.

His successor as Richmond mayor will be Dwight Jones. Jones, who won out over a field of several mayoral candidates with 39% of the vote, is a pastor and leader of the Virginia legislative Black Caucus. He narrowly defeated Richmond City Council president William Pantele after running a campaign centered on education and social justice issues.

Political Miscellany @ 11/17/2008

Black Leaders in the Colorado Legislature Make History

The Colorado legislature has only two black members. But now they are the two most powerful members of the 100-person body.

Colorado Rep. Terrance Carroll; Colorado Sen. Peter Groff

Colorado Democrats made legislative history by electing Rep. Terrance Carroll as speaker of the House and re-electing Peter Groff as Senate president.

It will be the first time in American history that the presiding officers of both chambers of a legislature will be African-Americans.

Two Omaha-area Black Women Elected to the Nebraska Legislature

For most of the past 30 years, Nebraska has had only one African-American serving in its single-house legislature. After the November election, it will have two, both female.

Incoming Nebraska State Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council
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Rep. Keith Ellison on Activists, Politicians, the Big Tent, and Telling It Like It Is.

Keith Ellison, who represents Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, is unique. He is the first Muslim to serve in the House of Representatives. The fact that an African American Muslim could be elected in a House district whose population is 12% black is something of a breakthrough.

Representative Keith Ellison, MN-05

Ellison is interviewed in the October 2008 issue of The Progressive magazine. He offers some interesting thoughts on the current and future state of black leadership:

Q: Do you agree with Reverand Jesse Jackson’s criticism that Senator Obama talks down to African Americans?

A: Now, let me tell you this. I don’t want to sound like I am equivocating but I see both sides of this thing.

The fact is that one of the things in the incoming era we’re emerging into will be the separation between the (black) activist and the (black) politician.

There will be an important role for people like Jesse Jackson. They’re like Jeremiah of the Old Testament. They’re lamenting the fallibility of society, the abandonment of its values. They’re going to call the country back to its better self.

And then there will be people who will be politicians. Politicians sound a little less strident than activists because they have to keep everybody in the tent-so to speak-in order to move the agenda. When you have to keep everybody in the tent, you just can’t “tell it like it is.” You have to be sensitive to everybody who is under the tent and keep them all moving in the same direction to achieve a definable outcome.

Whereas the activist has an equally important role, which is to help build a national consensus for a more just, more fair, more equal society.

But the roles are separating, and that is a result of this generational shift (in African American leadership).

That was then: John McCain says John Lewis “can teach us all a lot.”

This past August, John McCain and Barack Obama attended a forum hosted by pastor Rick Warren. Warren asked McCain to name three wise who would be relied upon in his administration. This is part of McCain’s response:

WARREN: This first set of questions deals with leadership and the personal life of leadership. The first question, who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?

MCCAIN: First one, I think, would be General David Petraeus, one of the great military leaders in American history, who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq, one of the great leaders…

I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, had his skull fractured, continued to serve, continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self- interest.

It seems that the McCain campaign hasn’t taken too well to Lewis’ latest advice.

UPDATE: As noted in the above link, the McCain campaign was angered by John Lewis’s statement that “the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign” is “sowing the seeds of hatred and division,” and was reminiscent of the harsh rhetoric of former Alabama governor, and arch-segregationist, George Wallace.

Suffice it to say, McCain and Palin are nothing like George Wallace. I think it’s a mistake to use Wallace’s name in the same breath as the two Republican candidates for President and Vice-President. That kind of talk makes McCain look like the victim.

But at the same time, I have no doubt that Lewis’ comments were heartfelt. I’ve noticed that many, many, many black folks over the age of 60 (such as my mother) have a very real fear that Barack Obama will be assassinated. These are the folks who remember the killings of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and the four little girls in a Birmingham church.

The virulent anti-Obama frenzy that’s being whipped-up lately is making a lot of people scared. I don’t know if the McCain camp gets that.

Jefferson Survives Again in Louisiana

William Jefferson, who represents New Orleans in the House of Representatives, has more political lives than a cat.

Jefferson has been under a cloud of scandal since 2005. That summer, as part of an FBI sting operation, he was caught on wiretap making a deal to accept $100,000 in cash from a woman so he could bribe officials in Nigeria and help her with a business venture there. The transfer of the cash to Jefferson was caught on an FBI video camera. Several days later, the FBI raided his home, and found $90,000 in cash in the kitchen freezer. (I once called Jefferson “the Iceman.”)

Representative William Jefferson, LA-02

Jefferson, who serves in Congress from Louisiana’s 2nd House district, had a seat on the powerful Ways and Means committee at the time. But Democrats in the House removed him from the committee when the scandal broke, to the objection of some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Jefferson then shocked everybody by running for re-election in 2006… and winning. He faced 12 opponents that year in the primary, who split the vote; he and another candidate who got the most votes wound up in a run-off election, which Jefferson won. Many feel that Jefferson got a post-Katrina sympathy vote, with many New Orleans voters feeling the government had set him up.

Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on 16 counts related to the alleged bribery. His trial is expected to begin in December.

But that didn’t stop Jefferson from running again this year. This time, he faced six Democrats on primary election day, which was on October 4. None of the candidates got 50%, but Jefferson led everyone with 25 percent of the vote. He will now go into a runoff with former broadcaster Helena Moreno, who got 20 percent of the vote. Moreno is Hispanic; all the other candidates were African American, and they apparently split the black vote.

The runoff will be held on national election day, November 4.

Note: A more pointed review of Jefferson’s election run is at the Skeptical Brotha blog in the post Jefferson Faces Latina in Run-off.

Kwame Kilpatrick Goes to Jail

It’s over for Kwame Kilpatrick. The embattled mayor of Detroit has now become the ex-mayor of Detroit and a future convict.

Kilpatrick has pleaded gulty to two felonies, and will serve time. As reported by the Detroit Free Press:

Kilpatrick’s guilty plea this morning ended a nearly eight-month drama that has transfixed the region, paralyzed much of city business and halted a political career that once held such promise.

In a courtroom this morning, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obstructing justice by committing perjury. He will spend four months in jail, pay up to $1 million in restitution, and serve five years’ probation. He also agreed not to run for office during that five-year span.

In addition, the mayor agreed to a no-contest plea to one count of felonious assault for shoving a sheriff’s deputy in July who had tried to serve a subpoena on Kilpatrick’s friend. He agreed to serve four months on that charge, too, but it will be served at the same time as his other sentence.

The deals also call for Kilpatrick to turn over his state pension to the City of Detroit, which paid $8.4 million to settle two whistle-blower lawsuits three former cops filed against the city. The mayor was charged with eight felony counts ranging from conspiracy to perjury to misconduct in office to obstruction of justice after the Free Press revealed in January that the mayor lied on the witness stand during a police whistle-blower trial and gave misleading testimony about whether he intended to fire a deputy police chief investigating allegations of wrongdoing by members of his inner circle.

In a rushed monotone, before a standing-room only audience, Kilpatrick told Wayne Circuit Judge David Groner: “I lied under oath in the case of Gary Brown and Harold Nelthrope versus the city of Detroit … I did so with the intent to mislead the court and jury, to impede and obstruct the disposition of justice.”

Such a shame, such a waste. But consider this:

Race/Ethnicity of Prisoners, 2005

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, as cited in The State of Black America 2007,
by the National Urban League

Although African Americans are 12% of the US population, they were 40% of all prison inmates in 2005.

At a time when so many black men are wallowing away in prison, the last thing we needed to see was a high profile figure in a position of trust cheat, lie, and cover-up, with the idea that he could somehow “game” the system.

Look, son: maybe Bill Clinton could get away with it… but “we” can’t.

I regret what this has done to Kilpatrick’s family. But even more, I regret the negative impact in terms of despair and cynicism on a once great city.

See also: Factoid: Black Male Incarceration Rate is 6 Times Greater Than Rate for White Males

Blacked Out: African Americans Near Invisible at the Republican Convention

According to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, only 1.5%(!) of the delegates to this week’s Republican National Convention are African American. As noted in the report, titled Blacks and the 2008 Republican National Convention:

The 36 black delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul is the lowest total in 40 years for a Republican National Convention. These delegates represent 1.5 percent of the total number of delegates, substantially below the record setting 6.7 percent in 2004. (Editor’s note: The United States is 13% African American.)

The 36 black delegates in 2008 represent an 78.4 percent decline over the 167 black delegates at the 2004 convention. There are 36 black alternates to the Republican Convention in 2008, down substantially from 124 in 2004 (71.0 percent decline), and 76 alternates in 2000. The following salient facts are worth special attention:

• There are 33 states plus D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands with fewer black delegates than in 2004, and only three states with more black delegates than in 2004. Several states had substantial declines. The states with the largest proportion of black delegates in 2008 are Mississippi (10.3 percent), Michigan (10.0 percent), and South Carolina (8.3 percent).

• In 2008, there are 24 states plus D.C. with no black delegates or alternates compared to seven states with no black delegates or alternates in 2004, and 16 states in 2000. (Editor’s note: Washington, D.C. is 60% African American.)

• The only African American with a prime speaking role at the 2008 Republican National Convention is former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steel. Joint Center tallies show one black member on the RNC Credentials Committee.

There is a possibility that the report numbers understate the count of black delegates. The report was issued before the Republican Party could provide black delegate information for New York and Virginia. So, instead of the black percentage being 1.5%, it could be 2.0% or 2.1%. Maybe.

As mentioned above, African Americans were 6.7% of the delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention. That compares to 4.1% in 2000 and only 2.6% in 1996. Meanwhile, at this year’s Democratic Convention, African Americans were 24.1% of all delegates. All of this is from other reports by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Meanwhile, Barb Davis White (see picture at left), a black Republican candidate for congress from Minnesota, is criticizing the party for failing to highlight African American candidates at the convention. As reported by the Minnesota Independent:

The campaign of Barb Davis White went after the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Minnesota on Tuesday, criticizing the RNC’s failure to invite any African-American congressional candidates to speak at the Republican National Convention and complaining that the Minnesota GOP has been lax in supporting Davis White’s campaign. Davis White is the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for the 5th Congressional District, which encompasses Minneapolis and several inner-ring suburbs.

In an email sent to the RNC and posted to the Independent Business News Network, Davis White’s press secretary, Don Allen, said that he had tried to get answers from the RNC numerous times as to why no African Americans are scheduled to speak at the RNC.

He wrote that he was stonewalled and, at least one time, threatened. He accused the party of discriminating: “This ’slave mentality thinking’ i.e.; ‘Be good you Black Republicans while our White friends are in town’ does not fly with me or the tools I have in place to distribute this message ‘top-of-mind’ to the general public and national news affiliates.”

I wonder how much the mass media will make of this?

PS: Not surprisingly, Neilson television ratings indicate that African American viewing of the GOP convention (2.1 million) is less than half what is was for the Democratic convention (4.6 million).

{See also Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.}

Brief Convention Notes: Hillary, Forum on Black Politics, Michelle

It’s a sure sign of fame, when a person can be referred to by their first name, and everyone knows who is being talked about. So it is with Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

I can’t be more emphatic: Hillary Clinton gave a great speech yesterday. It had so many memorable lines, it’s difficult to pick out any one or two of them as prominent. But these parts of her speech were especially memorable for me:

..I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism, didn’t have health insurance and discovered she had cancer. But she greeted me with her bald head painted with my name on it and asked me to fight for health care.

I will always remember the young man in a Marine Corps t-shirt who waited months for medical care and said to me: “Take care of my buddies; a lot of them are still over there….and then will you please help take care of me?”

I will always remember the boy who told me his mom worked for the minimum wage and that her employer had cut her hours. He said he just didn’t know what his family was going to do.

…I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

That struck a chord with me, as it no doubt will with many of Clinton’s female supporters.

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Factoid: Black Mayors of Cities with Population Over 50,000

This is a list of black mayors in cities with a population over 50,000. This is based on information from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The Joint Center describes itself as “one of the nation’s premier research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses exclusively on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color.”

Their black mayors list is here. I have updated the list; the Joint Center’s list was effective as of the end of 2007. This list should be correct as of August 2008. If readers have any updates to provide, please fell free to send them to us. Items in bold are known updates as of very early 2010 – but a number of entries are certainly outdated in 2010.

There are 45 cities on the list. African Americans are at least 40% of the population in 35 cities. Ten of the 45 mayors are female.

Here’s the list:
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Political Miscellany 6/13/08

The Obama campaign has been facing an onslaught of unsubstantiated smears. One of the most ridiculous is that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and that he changed his middle name (from, perhaps, Mohammed to Husein?). This led one web site to display a copy of Obama’s birth certificate. The Obama campaign has now created a website to address these malicious rumors: www.fightthesmears.com.

Some black Democrats in NYC who supported Hillary Clinton for president are catching grief. The Brooklyn Ron blog notes that Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn will be facing significant opposition from “writer and hip-hop culture exponent Kevin Powell.”

In Louisiana, Donald Cravins, Jr., an African American State Senator from the southwestern part of the state, appears ready to run for Congress against Republican incumbent Charles Boustany in the race for the state’s 7th Congressional district.

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Political Miscellany 6/3/08

A lot of black politicians supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, and that could put their careers at risk. Now that Clinton is on the cusp of losing the nomination race to Barack Obama, it’s being reported that she’s asking Obama to help her peeps out:

In addition to seeking Obama’s help in raising money to pay off some $20 million-plus in debts, Clinton is known to want Obama to assist black officials who endorsed her and who are now taking constituent heat, including, in some cases, primary challenges from pro-Obama politicians.

Speaking of mending fences, an LA Times article talks about how Clinton will need to repair her relationship with black New Yorkers in the aftermath of her election race with Obama.

Even as she continues her longshot presidential bid, Hillary Rodham Clinton faces a political rift in New York, where black leaders say her standing has dropped due to racially charged comments by her and her husband during the campaign. African American elected officials and clerics based in New York City say Clinton will need to defuse resentment over the campaign’s racial overtones if she returns to New York as U.S. senator.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, who represents Harlem, said constituents recently phoned him because they wanted to demonstrate outside Bill Clinton’s Harlem office against comments by the former president.

Belated congratulations to Karen Bass. Bass has become the first black woman to lead a state legislature, by virtue of being selected as Speaker of the California State Assembly. She assumed her duties on May 13, 2008.

Bass is from the 47th District of California, which includes many parts of Los Angeles county, including Westwood, Culver City, and Baldwin Hills. She is the vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, and has commissioned a report to research the basic demographic profile of Black Californians including the basic social and economic conditions. The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.

We wish her the best in her groundbreaking role.

Did you know? Only seven African Americans had previously been selected as head of a state legislature since the Reconstruction:
• Cecil A. Partee (D-Chicago), President of the Illinois Senate (1971-73; 1975-77)
• S. Howard Woodson (D-Trenton), Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, 1974-75
• K. Leroy Irvis (D-Pittsburgh), Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1977-79; 1983-89)
• Willie L. Brown. Jr. (D-San Francisco), Speaker of the California Assembly (1981-95)
• Daniel T. Blue, Jr. (D-Raleigh), Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives (1991-94)
• Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles), Speaker of the California Assembly (2002-04)
• Emil Jones, Jr. (D-Chicago), President of the Illinois Senate (2004-present)

Boyce Watkins of BlackProf.Com has an interesting piece titled Barack Obama Election Advice: Black Denunciations that Just Might Do the Trick. It talks about how Obama has had to play the “denounce/renounce/reject” game because of comments made by people he knows or has known.

As Boyce puts it,

Barack Obama is a nice guy, and I really want to see him have the chance to become president. After all, it appears that we’ve decided that having the first African American integrated into the highest office in the land is more significant than anything we must sacrifice in order to make that happen.[…]

So, I put together a list of suggested denunciations that can keep Senator Obama out of trouble in this campaign. He’s already denounced several black religious leaders and abandoned his church of the last 20 years, so he might as well get rid of anything else that might keep him from having a chance to receive complete validation from America. Black children should learn a lesson from all this: give up whatever you must in order to become successful. You are not quite good enough by being who you are, so you would be wise to disown all threatening aspects of your culture.   ”Mainstream” acceptance (translation: working at a predominantly white university, corporation or media outlet) is what makes you important in this world.  Don’t you forget that.  You can come back and work with black people if you can’t get a job anymore.

1) Medgar Evers…
2) Martin Luther King…
3) The other black “rabble rousers” …

And the list goes on. I think Watkins is going overboard on this. It seems like he’s equating Obama’s criticisms of Rev Wright and Reverend Phleger with being a denunciation of black people and black culture in general. That’s a real stretch.

PS, Obama has invoked the name and message of Rev Martin Luther King, Jr in several of his speeches.