From Sat Aug 24 13:30:15 2002
Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 00:11:31 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: [toeslist] For Black Politicians, 2 Races Suggest a Rise of New
Article: 144020
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

For Black Politicians, 2 Races Suggest a Rise of New Tactics

By Lynette Clemetson, New York Times, 22 August 2002

(I absolutely do not believe that there is any rise in Black support for Israel, I have not heard, and have questioned friends from around the country, of any rise, quite the contrary—Nicole)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21—The defeat of Representative Cynthia A. McKinney in a Democratic primary on Tuesday—the second loss this summer by a prominent black House incumbent to a more moderate black challenger—carries implications for black politicians, and perhaps others as well, that go far beyond any single Congressional district.

Denise Majette, a former state judge who defeated Ms. McKinney in the primary in Georgia’s Fourth District, in the suburbs of Atlanta, capitalized on the furor caused by Ms. McKinney’s suggestion this year that President Bush might have known about the Sept. 11 attacks but did nothing so his supporters could make money in a war.

In the earlier race, political analysts said Artur Davis, who defeated Representative Earl F. Hilliard, an Alabama Democrat, in June, benefited from Mr. Hilliard’s history of ethical lapses.

Last summer, he was rebuked by the House Ethics Committee for converting campaign gifts to his own use.

Both incumbents drew even more attention—and their challengers gained important political traction—because they were regarded as unfriendly to Israel. This allowed their opponents to tap into an outpouring of financial contributions from Jewish Americans and other Israel supporters.

Ms. McKinney’s opponents were galvanized by her vocal support for Palestinians and the campaign contributions she received from Arab-American donors, some of whom have been under investigation on suspicion of links to terrorism.

Many political experts said today that the victories of the two challengers showed that successful black candidates no longer had to rely solely on rhetoric and tactics of the civil rights era.

The black electorate is increasingly well-educated, more entrepreneurial, business-savvy and politically moderate, said Jarvis C. Stewart, a Washington lobbyist and major Democratic fund-raiser. Many who were not raised in the era of the civil rights movement don’t relate to or see the benefit in polarizing politics.

Still, it was the money from campaign contributors motivated by a single issue—one not directly related to problems and concerns in the candidates’ districts—that allowed the challengers to get out their messages, a fact that has caused resentment from some black politicians.

I definitely have some feelings about any outside group exerting this kind of influence in a race, and I’ve been receiving angry calls from black voters all day, saying they should rally against Jewish candidates, said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat who is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

To have non-African-Americans from around the country putting millions into a race to unseat one of our leaders for expressing her right of free speech is definitely a problem, Ms. Johnson said.

Ms. Majette, who graduated from Yale University and Duke law school, and Mr. Davis are among a group of rising black figures in Democratic politics— including Representative Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee and Ron Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas running for Senate in Texas—who are pressing centrist views.

Ms. McKinney, a five-term incumbent, and her supporters expected negative reaction from Republicans and Jewish voters, but political strategists said they might have underestimated the negative effects her positions would have in the black community.

Ron Lester, a Democratic pollster who conducted a survey of voters after the Hilliard-Davis primary in Alabama, said that within that district, black support for Israel had increased markedly since Sept. 11.

Concerning Ms. McKinney, he said that she registered a job approval rating of 70 percent among her black constituents in a poll conducted in June, but that on Tuesday such approval was apparently not enough to override larger worries about her political allegiances.

Black voters are as emotional about 9/11 as any other voters, Mr. Lester said. They were happy with the way she served the district, but a certain segment of black voters were very wary of her remarks and the controversy surrounding her.

It did not help that prominent black figures, including Julian Bond, the chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., and former Mayor Maynard Jackson of Atlanta—who had supported Ms. McKinney in the past—distanced themselves from her this time.

People in the black community still think of the comments she made after 9/11, and they are still a little apprehensive, said Alfreida Capers, 51, a DeKalb County resident who campaigned for Ms. McKinney.

There were some in our community who saw Ms. Majette’s advertisements on television and thought they reflected a young, Christian woman with a family who would be less boisterous, Ms. Capers added. Some certainly thought our congresswoman was too boisterous and they carried that thought with them to the polls.

Ms. Majette garnered 58 percent of the vote on Tuesday to Ms. McKinney’s 42 percent, and faces just token opposition in November. Ms. Majette also outraised Ms. McKinney by nearly two to one, pulling in more than $1.1 million in campaign funds, much of which came from pro-Israel political action committees and individual donors outside of Georgia.

In June, pro-Israel groups funneled money into the race in rural Alabama to help Mr. Davis, a 34-year-old former assistant United States attorney, defeat Mr. Hilliard, a five-term incumbent who was linked to pro-Arab causes. Mr. Davis faces no Republican opposition in November.

This shows that there is a price to pay for taking a position that is out of step with the views of most Americans, said Morris J. Amitay, founder of the Washington Political Action Committee, a pro-Israel group, and the former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the country’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying groups.

Others, though, said that the influence of outside groups could depress black turnout.

For Democrats to do well this year they need solid numbers of black votes, said David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based research group that looks at issues affecting African Americans.

But if black voters perceive that elections in their districts are ultimately being decided by whites and powerful outside sources with money, Mr. Bositis said, they may conclude their votes don’t matter and decide not to vote at all.

James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, said he feared a return to the 1980’s, when Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, rejected his group’s endorsement, and Mayor David Dinkins of New York refused to meet with him, concerned about angering Jewish constituents. This painting of Arab-American donors and political participants as being terrorists in disguise is a garish and grotesque caricature, Mr. Zogby said. This is not about three or four donors, this is about widely targeted politics of exclusion that could end up in the disenfranchising of the entire Arab and Muslim American community.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, though many are disappointed at the loss of their colleague Ms. McKinney, said they would welcome Ms. Majette.

If she comes here willing to work with us and is not skewed by the agenda of her supporters, of course we work with her, Representative Johnson said. We all know we have to move past this.