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.

Prominent Black Democrat Won’t Endorse Jim Martin in Georgia Senate Race

This is from the AugustaChronicle.com, concerning the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin.

AP, November 19, 2008: U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin won’t be getting an endorsement from his former Democratic rival anytime soon.

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who lost to Mr. Martin in a primary runoff in August, said he has no plans to back him, citing the former state lawmaker’s lack of support for Democratic President-elect Barack Obama during the primary season.

Mr. Martin voted for Democrat John Edwards in Georgia’s Feb. 5 presidential primary even though the North Carolina senator already had dropped out of the race.

Mr. Jones, who is black, hammered Mr. Martin repeatedly for that vote during their bitter campaign.

“Jim Martin did not want Barack Obama to be president,” Mr. Jones said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “He did not want to vote for an African-American or a woman.”

Mr. Jones said it’s hypocritical for Mr. Martin to now be “begging Barack Obama to come down here and help him” in his Dec. 2 runoff.

Mr. Martin is locked in a runoff with Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss after neither garnered 50 percent of the vote in the general election. He has asked Mr. Obama to campaign for him but has received no word on whether he will.

That kind of news can’t be helpful to Martin, who needs the black vote to turnout if he’s going to win the runoff. While Chambliss got just under 50% of the general election vote, Martin got around 47% (the same percentage that Barack Obama got in Georgia).

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