Fall Elections: Stakes Remains High for Black Politicians

Article excerpt

This year, elections involving Black politicians have garnered wide attention. Two veterans of Congress - Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) and Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) - have been defeated in Democratic primaries that turned on Middle East issues. Two other Southern politicians are attempting to make history by being elected to the U.S. Senate, which hasn't had a Black member since Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois was defeated in 1998.

With Democrats holding a one-vote majority in the Senate and the Republican advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives standing at only six seats, the fate of Black politicians in Congressional races stands to affect control of Congress.

Historical trends bode well for Democrats, says David Bositis, senior research analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Wash ington. "Republicans took over in 1994 and ever since have lost seats in the House, and now it's getting down to the point where they can't afford to lose any more," he says. "In the off-- year elections, the president's party [usually] loses seats, so if there's a solid Black vote and the Democrats do reasonably well, they could take over the House."

If Democrats regain the House, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) would chair prominent committees - Ways and Means and Judiciary, respectively.

On the Senate side, Dan Blue of North Carolina is vying for the seat Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) is vacating. Ron Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas who has been supported by the Democratic National Committee, is attempting to win the seat of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who is retiring.

According to political analysts, Kirk stands the best chance of becoming the first African American senator from the South since Reconstruction.

"The odds are still against [Ron Kirk], but he does have a chance to win. …