Thursday, September 28, 2006

MD - Another Race Getting Caught up in Race

There is a certain ambivalence in Black political discourse that tends to occassionally bother us all, regardless of political affiliation, ideological leaning or background. It's how we define our politics through the lense of our racial experience and cultural identity - although we have, through movements, protest, law suits and legislation, fiercely objected to the notion that we should be perceived solely through the color of our skin. That's a tough dilemma that's hard to shake, especially when considering that the extent of our political empowerment is critically shaped by how well we can position ourselves in the body politic.

It's easy for folks to claim that we have reached the political Promise Land and risen to a moment where African Americans can be effectively and compassionately represented by an elected official of any racial or ethnic persuasion, particularly a White one. But, let's not kid ourselves. The experience gap is more than just that - it's a gulf. Ultimately, African Americans will not experience any sort of tangible or sustainable political or economic power until they have littered the City Halls, State Assemblies, Congressional Chambers and White Houses with their authoritative presence. That will then lead to lasting and universal respect.

We write this because we're certain the mainstream, White-dominated public policy and political establishment grows tired of this "Black political" talk. Watch what happens in VA as voters, pundits and campaigns alike will grow all "M****a'ed" and "N****r'ed" out, and more issue focused. MD - much like VA - is now becoming a state gripped by "race" talk in what will definitely be a hotly contested and dramatic Senate race between two very qualified and viable candidates that seem to defy the universe of American political conventions: A White Democrat and a Black Republican. How the Earth spins its axis on that one. Many Black Democrats (who dominate the Black political scene in that state) are scrambling to place their bets and endorsements, obviously conflicted between party allegiance and cultural affinity. We've talked quite a bit about Black voters in the state (we think Steele will get 40% of that bloc come November - seriously). But, let's take a look at White voters in that state, the predominant bloc (it's hard to gauge Latino, Asian and other immigrant voting blocs at this stage)

There are a few ways this could play out according to the mood swings of White voters that day ...

Scenario 1: Former NAACP head, Congressman and now MD Senate primary loser Kweisi Mfume (D) made a good point during his somewhat tepid endorsement of Dem nominee Rep. Ben Cardin (D) as reported by the Washington Post: "The Democratic nominees for the top four jobs, he noted, look no different than the ticket 50 years ago". White voters in MD may be growing very weary and possibly resentful of all this talk about qualified Black politicos getting passed over - it implies what White Northerners are always in denial about: their sloppy racial attitudes. So, if Democrats are not careful in the clumsy bum rush to court Black voters, they might end up losing predominant White voters who pick GOP nominee Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) in a show of support for diversity. We don't really think like that.

Scenario 2: Or: White voters might be getting tired of all this talk about "Black people" and what "Black voters deserve," encouraging them to simply vote Republican out of an intrinsic fear that Democrats will give up too much political clout to heavily Black Baltimore and Prince George's County. Cardin's camp has gotten all the Black political endorsements it needs at this point. It may be tactically prudent to now move on and get to the business of campaigning the rest of the state.

Scenario 3: Democrats, so worried about losing Black voters in the state, appear to concentrate most of their efforts in the heavily African American parts of the state - at the risk of ignoring other parts of the state. Republicans could be banking on that, privately driving the "Black talk" as a political diversion tactic. Cardin's camp (recently pressed about racial insensitivity within its campaign leadership) may privately take Steele's Reticence Level among White voters for granted, thinking they will automatically vote for the old White guy. That assumption could turn on them if they don't take a look at the Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) 2002 playbook.

Scenario 4: As we get closer to Election Day, these races will become more and more localized. Democrats shouldn't simply assume that the geo-political climate and bad Presidential approval ratings will translate into automatic gains for them. Ultimately, voters want to actually see what you can do for them or have done. How you vote on Iraq may not be the only thing that gets you in the cut.

Monday, September 25, 2006

12 Days Later Edwards Concedes to Wynn

After nearly two weeks of counting votes in Maryland's fourth Congressional District challenger Donna Edwards finally conceded the race to incumbent Al Wynn late Sunday night.

The latest count showed Edwards down by 2,275 with only a few thousands left to be tabulated.

Edwards, who made Wynn's support of the war in Iraq a key point in this campaign, said the problems many in the district had with the electronic voting machines "really troubled" her but she is no longer consideration legal action which look like a real possibility on election day and shortly thereafter.

Wynn agreed that there were problems and but thinks better training and pay for poll workers will begin to cure some of these issues.

photo Washington Post

Saturday, September 23, 2006

MA - Patrick Surges from the Gate

After a resounding victory in the Democratic primary Deval Patrick staked a huge lead in the first post primary poll against Republican nominee Lt. Governor Kerry Healey. In a SurveyUSA poll on the Governor's race in Massachusetts Patrick leads Healey by a stunning 39 points.

Patrick, a former US Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton administration, leads in every category and enjoys a low "Reticence Level" of only 13 points. He is also receiving support from over a quarter of the Republicans surveyed in the poll. In a commonwealth with an African American population of only six percent Patrick has cobbled together a victory inducing mosaic of racial support topping Healey in the white, African American and Hispanic responses.

Patrick won the primary by a surprising 23 points with a grassroots movement that continues to traverse the state and with only six weeks left in the campaign the SurveyUSA numbers bode well for the Democratic nominee.

Friday, September 22, 2006

FL - Nominee Taps African American Running Mate

Trying to capture an open governor's office and needing every vote from his party's most faithful base, Democratic nominee Jim Davis of Florida, picked former state Senator Darryl Jones as his Lt. Governor candidate.

The Davis/Jones ticket should be a formidable opponent to the GOP team of Charlie Crist and Jeff Kottkamp. Polls show this to be a relatively close race, in early September SurveyUSA had Crist up 8 points, and Davis will need the African American vote to pick him up. However, Davis has work to do within the black community.

During the primary a Davis opponent reminded voters that Davis, while in the legislature in the 1990, refused to vote for compensation for two African American men who were wrongly convicted of a crime. Davis, who was running for Majority Leader at the time and needed conservative votes, has since admitted he was wrong.

Jones, who spent 10 years in the Florida Senate, made a spirited run for Governor four years ago but finished third.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

MD - Ehrlich Wants to Scrap E-Ballots ...

Baltimore Sun reports:

... told the three-member Board of Public Works, which authorized the purchase of the equipment in June and July, that the malfunction was "intolerable" and that she would "hold Diebold accountable" by requiring the Ohio-based company to provide a written summary of the problem by Friday and fix every machine before the Nov. 7 general election in 48 days.That, however, did not sit well with the governor, who wants the poll books scrapped for the November election and floated the idea of convening a special session of the General Assembly to do so."We literally cannot afford to see take place the events that took place on primary day," Ehrlich said. "We were lucky during the primary that there was low turnout."

First: maybe this is part of the problem - there is an expectation of low voter turnout that leads election officials to not take this function seriously. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich's (R) hard-line, somewhat activist "go-paper" stand may help him slightly in his bid for a second term depending on the Democratic response. However, the Governor's outrage seems a day late and a dollar short.

Yes He Did

To the chants of "Yes We Can" in a raucous hotel ballroom former US Assistant Attorney General Deval Patrick claimed the the Democratic nomination for Governor of Massachusetts.
Patrick, who glided to an easy primary victory, said he grassroots approach was the reason for his victory and said that a "politics of hope and possibilities" would lead him to victory in November.

With a dispatched opponent, Chris Gaberieli, standing at this side the Democratic nominee spoke about expanding the economy and economic justice, building quality and universal health care and striding for excellence in all public schools across the commonwealth. Saying there should be no focus on left or right but only a focus on right and wrong and advancing the common interest of the commonwealth, Patrick predicted victory in seven weeks.

Patrick will face Lt. Governor Kerry Healey in the general election and will enter that race as the favorite since he has led most polls in match ups with Healey by an average of 12 points.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Poised for Victory

In the most recent Groff/Ellison Political Report we said that Deval Patrick's run for Governor of Massachusetts was the "best case scenario for an African American to win a high level office".

The truth of that statement will be decided tomorrow when Massachusetts holds it primary election and Patrick takes on venture capitalist Chris Gabrieli and Attorney General Tom Reilly for the Democratic nomination.

The race between the three has been relatively close with Patrick leading for most of the spring and summer. However, a Boston Globe/CBS4-TV survey conducted last week shows Patrick opening up a whopping 21 point lead.

If that poll is correct or even close and Patrick wins the party nod tomorrow, he would be the overwhelming favorite to win the Governor's Mansion in a state that is heavily Democratic.

In most polls he leads presumptive GOP choice Lt. Governor Kerry Healy by an average of 12 points since June.

Steele Starts Down

After cruising through the primary season Maryland Lt. Governor and GOP US Senate nominee Michael Steele finds himself down seven in the first General Election poll pitting him against Democratic choice Congressman Ben Cardin.

In a poll released by Rasmussen Reports over the weekend, Lt. Gov. Steele has a favorable rating of 60% and a Reticence Level (lack of support from the Republicans) of only 17% in the survey. The question, unanswered in the poll, is what will be the level of his African American support. We think he will need to receive at least 25-30% of the African American vote to win in November.

The sooner we find an answer to that question the sooner we'll see if the Rasmussen Reports Poll is correct.

IN-Carson Up 15

Some may have underestimated the 68 year old 4 term Congresswomen Julia Carson of Indiana, but voters in Indiana's 7th Congressional district haven't. A poll, conducted from September 5-8, shows Ms. Carson with a 15 point lead over Republican nominee Eric Dickerson.

In one of the six races that will pit African American candidates against one another in November, Ms. Carson seems to have the edge with voter registration and the nuances that flow from incumbancy like fundraising.

As of today Ms. Carson has raised over $200,ooo and Mr. Dickerson has totaled just over $32,000.

The seventh CD encompasses the city of Indianapolis and close in suburbs and is one of two districts held by Democrats in Indiana. The other 7 are held by Republicans.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

MD - The 2-Days After: Wynn/Edwards Battle Still Toss Up

Last check, primary provisional ballots in Maryland's hotly contested District 4 are still being counted, with 94% of precincts reporting. Incumbent Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) manages a slight lead still with 50% to an aggressive challenge from activist Donna Edwards who claims 47%. Edwards, predictably, wants every provisional ballot counted in light of Sept. 12th's electronic voting machine debacle throughout Montgomery & Prince George's Counties in Maryland. The focus right now is on Mont.Co., as Edwards maintained a significant lead in that area of CD 4.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wins and Losses and the September 12th Primaries

There was the a lot of talk and chatter leading up to yesterday's primary. Would Kweisi Mfume win the Democratic nod and set up a historic battle with probable GOP nominee Michael Steele?

Could St. Rep. Keith Ellison overcome bad press and relentless attacks and questions about his faith and win Minnesota's DFL nomination in congressional district 5?

Who would win the Democratic nomination for Mayor of Washington DC and become the probable Mayor of the capital city?

Would the African American vote in New York's 11th congressional district be split allowing a white candidate to win a 60% African American district represented by a black Congressperson for over 30 years?

And could a pro-war vote and support of the Iraqi action cost an African American member of congress his seat?

As of the writing of this blog, the answers to almost all of those questions have been answered.

At 5:00 pm MDT the race in Maryland's 4th Congressional district is still a toss up. Incumbent Al Wynn, who's pro war vote and support caused a white hot challenge by Donna Edwards, is up by only 2800 votes with 95% of the vote reporting.

Elsewhere in Maryland: Kweisi Mfume came up short in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for the US Senate to Congressman Ben Cardin 46% to 39%. In the Attorney General race Stuart Simms, who entered the contest late after his Lt. Gubernatorial candidancy was short-circuited, lost to Douglas Gansler by 12 points. In the campaign to replace Ben Cardin in Congress, Mishonda Baldwin received only 2% of the vote in the Congressional District 3 contest. And as expected Republican Michael Steele, the Commonwealth's Lt. Governor, stormed to victory receiving 87% of vote. Another candidate for the GOP Senate nomination Corrigan Vaughn only received 1%.

In New York: Yvette Clarke withstood a fierce challenge from three other candidates, Carl Andrews, Chris Owens and David Yassky, to win the Democratic nomination for the open 11th Congressional District. A pre-race poll should that Yassky, a white city councilman, in a four way dead heat in a district that is 60% African American. In the nearby 10th CD Edolphus Towns held off challenges from Charles Barren and Roger Green and the won the right to represent the Democratic Party for another term. Charlie King lost his effort for Attorney General to Andrew Cuomo and Assemblyman David Paterson, who is legally blind, won the Democratic nomination to be Lt. Governor of New York. Paterson was tapped by gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer to be his running mate.

In Washington DC: A tight race for Mayor was blown wide open by young City Councilman Adrian Fenty in the closing weeks of the campaign and Fenty went on to beat City Council Chair Linda Cropp by 26 points. With the District's democratic registration over 70% Fenty appears well on his way to being the next Mayor of DC.

Finally in Minnesota: State Representative Keith Ellison held off personal issues, questions about his Muslim faith and 6 opponents to win the Democratic-Farm-Labor nomination to be the next Congressman from Minneapolis' 5th district and the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. Lastly in a strange contest in Minnesota's 4th CD Ogabazghi Sium crushed Jack Shepherd for the GOP nomination, but Shepherd couldn't campaign for the post because he is fugitive from the law and Italy.

Next week Massachusetts holds its primary and Deval Patrick, who received more good poll news today, will be up against two opponents in his campaign for governor.

Monday, September 11, 2006

New York CD 11 about to Tennessee Itself

Here we go again. A congressional seat held by African Americans for decades comes open, a whole bunch of black folks run and voila, the seat is won by a white candidate.

It happened in Tennessee's Ninth Congressional district last month and is poised to happen again in New York's 11th congressional district tomorrow.

New York's congressional district 11 is currently held by Major Owens and encompasses the entire historic enclave of Brooklyn in New York City. It is 60% African American and has been represented by an African American since 1969 when the venerable Shirley Chisholm was elected. Owens replaced Rep. Chisholm in 1983 and is not seeking reelection.

Once the seat opened up the candidates poured in and the race is now a toss up. A poll released yesterday shows that all four candidates are within a point of one another. State Senator Carl Andrews, Councilwomen Yvette Clarke, Owens son Chris and Councilmember David Yassky will battle to get their vote out tomorrow, but for Owens, Clarke and Andrews they may be fighting over the same people, divvying up the vote and opening the door for Yassky to waltz in and do a Tennessee two step.

We've seen it before.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Brown Out in DC

Lagging in the polls and struggling to raise money with the primary on Tuesday, Michael Brown saw the writing on the wall and withdrew from the Washington DC mayor's race yesterday. Brown threw his support behind City Council President Linda Cropp, who is currently running second in the polls.

Brown, who was tracking fourth in the five person race, said he couldn't "... watch a political novice, a man without the courage and strength required to run the city, attempt to steal this race from someone who has seen the city through its worse times...," as to why he is supporting Cropp. Those remarks apparently were aimed at front runner Councilman Adrian Fenty who holds a ten point lead according a recent poll.

Brown's support for Cropp didn't surprise pundits since the Cropp family and Brown's are very close and have been for decades.

The first act of support by Brown, the son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, was to call the other two candidates in the race, Councilman Vincent Orange and former Verizon exec Marie Jones and gauge their interest in withdrawing, but both declined to do so.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Anti-Affirmative Action Proposal Now Trails

A recent poll done by Seltzer and Company for Local 4 Michigan and the Detroit Free Press shows that a statewide initiative to ban Affirmative Action is now failing 43% to 41%. Sixteen percent of those surveyed are unsure.

The poll, conducted between August 28-30, is not that much different than the survey taken in June (mentioned in a June 19 blog) with the major exception that the proposal led in June but is behind now.

The most recent poll has a 3.5% margin of error.

Ford in Dead Heat

According to a snap shot poll done by Rasmussen Reports yesterday Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is down by only one point to GOP nominee Bob Corker. Click here for the poll.

Ford, the Democratic nominee has trailed the Chattanooga mayor by as many as six points in previous polls.

In a poll released by the Ford campaign in late August the Congressman led Corker by two points.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Chicago Mayoral Race Heating Up ....

A Mayoral race to keep an eye on, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Demanding change but refusing to pinpoint what Mayor Daley has done wrong, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown declared her candidacy for mayor Thursday with a promise to eliminate corruption and guarantee equal access to jobs and contracts.

Instead, she focused on broad-stroke promises to eliminate waste and corruption, improve all Chicago public schools and guarantee fair access to city jobs and contracts.

"We did not make the decision to run for mayor . . . just because of the corruption that has recently occurred in this administration. We feel that we're very qualified to be the mayor of the city of Chicago and we're gonna run on our record and what we can do," she said.

The "we" language is rather compelling and definitely seeks to rally serious Black support in Chicago, 63% of which went to Daley in the previous Mayoral fight. Still, Brown has many skeletons rattling:

But Brown's political career has not been without controversy, either.

A former CTA auditor, she was elected clerk in 2000 on a promise to modernize file-keeping, only to be dogged by the same complaints that plagued her predecessor.

Lawyers and judges have alleged that records take months to get filed. The backlog is so severe that some documents never make it into case files, they contend.

In March 2004, she recommended a suspension for an employee who had complimentary tickets to Brown's political fund-raiser dropped into every judge's mailbox at the Skokie courthouse.

Dozens of current and former staffers also told the Sun-Times they were pressured to buy tickets to Brown fund-raisers and to work on her campaign on county time.

In May 2005, the County Board rejected Brown's efforts to award a $250,000 no-bid consulting contract to a firm that was part of her 2000 transition team. Two months later, she was one of 28 county officials to attend a conference in Honolulu at taxpayers' expense.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Not So Fast Mr. Congressman

Two days ago a Gonzales Research poll showed Congressman Ben Cardin (D-MD) opening up a good lead over former Congressman and NAACP head Kweisi Mfume in the race for the Democratic nomination for US Senator from Maryland.

However, in a SurveyUSA poll released yesterday ( it is Mr. Mfume who winds up ahead of Rep. Cardin with 13% still undecided.

The race promises to be close, especially if Mr. Mfume taps into the political machines of Congressmen Al Wynn and Elijah Cummings who endorsed the Mfume effort earlier this week.

The primary is set for September 12.

Look for an overview of the muffin race in the next issue of the Groff/Ellison Political Report on Tuesday September 12.

Fordham University Professor Terry Smith on NY District 11 Race talks with Fordham University Professor of Law and Contributor Terry Smith about the NY district 11 race, split Black voting and White candidates in majority Black districts. Two parts on ASCENT Perspectives, part of the Ascent Speaks Audioblog Network.