array of emotions filled the night air Aug. 21 in DeKalb County.
Hundreds of supporters listened to the 12:45 a.m. concession speech of
five-term incumbent Cynthia McKinney, who lost to former judge Denise
Majette in her bid for a sixth term in Congress.
The defeat of
Rep. McKinney represents the second loss this year by a senior Black
incumbent at the behest of strong pro-Israeli groups, which put their
financial war chests behind the challengers. Major crossover votes cast
by conservative White Republicans for Ms. Majette and less-than-expected
turnout in McKinney strongholds were essential for the margin of
say the victory of the more “moderate” candidate over Ms. McKinney,
coupled with the choice of Artur Davis in Alabama over five-term
incumbent Rep. Earl Hilliard, fueled in large part by outside forces
threatens all politicians. But with the few Black members in Congress,
the loss of two outspoken lawmakers is especially significant for Black
There is also
concern about repercussions the defeats may have far beyond the 4th
District in Georgia and the state of Alabama.
voters perceive that elections in their districts are ultimately being
decided by Whites and powerful outside sources with money, they may
conclude their votes don’t matter and decide not to vote at all,” 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 Black Americans.
unhappy with what happened in the congressional elections.
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 Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), CBC chairperson.
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,” said Rep. Johnson.
for lawmaker’s ouster
clear now that this defeat was engineered by a very well publicized and
internationally recognized assault by Zionist lobbyists here in
America,” said Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, McKinney supporter and
co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The former D.C.
delegate was referring to a campaign by the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others against Ms. McKinney.
secret. Newspapers for the last year have pointed out that they have
targeted Cynthia McKinney and in coalition with conservative
Republicans, who’ve unabashedly advised Republicans in this district not
to vote in the Republican primary, but to switchover in the Democratic
primary and defeat Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard,” said Mr.
“It signals the
breakup of the coalition of so-called progressive forces in the
Democratic Party which should have included organized labor, the Jewish
community and the African American community,” Mr. Fauntroy continued.
have to see what the result of that breakup (will be) that robbed us as
African Americans of the seniority status that had been carefully built
for 10 years by two members on two very important committees
representing U.S. domestic and foreign interests from the Black
“To knock off
the fourth ranking member to agriculture and the seventh and eighth
ranking members of the international relations committee of the House of
Representatives, you have delivered a serious blow to the interests of
African Americans,” he said.
Mr. Fauntroy is
planning a national emergency summit of Black leadership “to decide how
we are going to define our interests and protect are interests domestic
and foreign policy wise.”
closed on the 4th District race with the candidates in an Aug. 20 dead
heat. By 11 p.m., Ms. Majette had secured 58 percent of the vote to Ms.
McKinney’s 42 percent. Some 18,000 to 20,000 registered Republicans
crossed over and voted for Ms. Majette. The former judge garnered nearly
25 percent of the district’s Black vote.
DeKalb, Ms. McKinney’s base over the last 10 years, Black turnout was
smaller than expected.
District is overwhelmingly Democratic and the winner of the primary is
virtually assured of serving in Congress.
Factors in the
played into the lack of voter enthusiasm.
It did not help
that some prominent Blacks, including NAACP Chairman Julian Bond,
Democrat John Lewis of the neighboring Fifth District, former Atlanta
Mayor Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and civil
rights leader, distanced themselves from Ms. McKinney.
had been able to depend on the support of prominent Black leaders in
previous elections. All of the leaders who are former politicians are
Republicans wanted to beat me more than the Democrats wanted to keep
me,” Ms. McKinney told the crowd gathered at her concession speech.
“Tonight I have lost an election. But I maintained my spirit, my
courage, my dignity and my commitment to truth, peace and the future,”
she said. “Someone said that when one door closes another opens. Some
doors have opened for me tonight. I know that God has a plan. And I know
that God is not finished with me yet.”
campaign officials, some McKinney options include building a “third
political force” in November with the congresswoman running as a
write-in candidate. Legal questions about whether laws were violated in
the push for a crossover vote by White Republicans against Ms. McKinney
and Zionist lobbying are also under review, officials said.
law, voters may chose to vote for any candidate, regardless of the party
affiliation. Republicans mounted a major effort for an anti-McKinney
vote. It worked. Nearly one-third of registered Republicans in the
district skipped their own party primary and voted against Ms. McKinney
in the Democratic primary.
who has served in the state legislature for 30 years and is Rep.
McKinney’s father, is also in a primary runoff for his seat as a state
McKinney-Majette race drew national and some international attention,
based on comments the outspoken congresswoman has made on different
occasions, and criticism of U.S. support for Israel.
also miscast comments she made questioning what the White House knew
about potential attacks before Sept. 11.
debated several issues, particularly where it concerned affirmative
action, funding brought into the district and their respective records
of public service.
But the main
exchanges concerned the financial support of AIPAC and Jewish donors for
Ms. Majette and Arab and Muslim donors to Rep. McKinney’s campaign. Ms.
McKinney was also accused of receiving money from Arab terrorist groups.
has been a strong advocate for a balanced Middle East policy, condemned
racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims and erosion of civil liberties
since Sept. 11.
was also redrawn to include more White voters and dilute her Black base.
There was a
controversy about an ad run by Ms. McKinney that included an endorsement
by Andrew Young. According to Ms. McKinney, the civil rights leader said
she could use a previous endorsement. He publicly announced a desire to
stay neutral in the race.
from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and others, some supporters felt the
CBC offered lackluster support for Rep. McKinney.
Jackson, speaking to reporters at a Chicago meeting of Black
journalists, felt four forces converged in the election: Republicans
crossed over against Ms. McKinney, while AIPAC puts its muscle behind
challenger Ms. Majette as prominent Blacks backed away and the national
Democratic Party did nothing to help an incumbent in a tight race. The
issue is bigger than Black-Jewish differences, he said. But, the former
presidential candidate added, it is worrisome that Ms. McKinney was
targeted for taking a pro-Palestinian position, but another White
lawmaker, who took a similar position, was not.
control the 4th Congressional District?
In an interview
with The Final Call, Ms. Majette said Black voters in DeKalb have
nothing to fear regarding her allegiance to those outside the
congressional district. She said the money from pro-Israeli groups would
not influence her.
vowed to work hard to keep her supporters, win over McKinney-backers and
represent all of the interests of her district.
“It’s the first
time that Black people have had a choice between two African American,
Democratic, 47-year-old women with previous political experience,” said
Mrs. Majette. “But I would agree that it’s not the same base that
existed five or six years ago when she last had Democratic opposition.”
Some analysts have said middle class voters identified more with Ms.
Majette and her moderate politics.
is to the people of the 4th District. That is the bottom line. Those are
the only people who can vote for me, send me to office or send me
packing,” she said.
Johnson said if Ms. Majette wins the November election against
Republican opponent Catherine Davis, who is also Black, the Black Caucus
would welcome her. “If she comes here willing to work with us and is not
skewed by the agenda of her supporters, of course, we will work with
her,” said Rep. Johnson.
Cokely argued all CBC members who represent districts with a Black
populace of 65 percent or more are now potential targets. Now that
redistricting is over, Black congressmen need to secure their places on
Capitol Hill and work more openly in the interests of Black America, he
leaders and the election
Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton
national leaders who went to Georgia to urge voters to participate in
the 4th District election.
spoke at three churches, held news conferences and talked about the need
for Black politicians to be able to represent the interests of voters.
He warned the undue influence of outside forces and lobbies erode
democracy and can negate the will of voters.
higher turnout in the district certainly is indicative of the voter
education that Min. Farrakhan conducted while he was here,” said Min.
Ray Muhammad, southern regional representative of the Nation of Islam.
He is based in Atlanta.
volunteers who came to help Ms. McKinney were Muslims and others who
felt her strong voice deserved support.
consciousness of Black people in America is growing. What this electoral
process with Cynthia McKinney did for us is that it continues to give us
a very important lesson in this dirty game of politics. It shows us as
we watch White people and their example that they’ve set for us in this
election; that they are not straddled down to any political party. They
don’t have an undying allegiance to any political party, but they are
more interested in what serves them most and what is in their best
interests,” said Min. Ray Muhammad.
political force, not loyal to any political party, but loyal to Black
interests is needed, he argued. White voters acted in their perceived
best interest in the 4th District race, he said.
Muhammad, also of Atlanta, said the volunteers are indicative of a
growing political awareness in Black America, and among Muslims.
from San Francisco to New York, from Chicago, Cleveland, Birmingham and
south into Florida, he noted.
“It gave us the
energy to go into the precincts and to provide on the ground level an
increase of three-times the turnout in 16 of the worst voting precincts
in the district. Turnout had been as low as 10 and 12 percent in those
precincts. This time around it was 36.2 percent,” he said.
Looking to keep
its position in Georgia politics AIPAC will hold a National Summit in
Atlanta, Oct. 5-7, with leading members of government and media in honor
of AIPAC’s “Capitol Club.”
A dinner for
exclusive members of the 65,000-plus-member organization will be held at
the Governor’s Mansion hosted by Gov. Roy E. Barnes. Speakers will
include Mr. Barnes and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs William Burns.
Others who will
address the gathering are Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, Israeli
Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh, National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice, Senators John Edwards (D-N.C.), George Allen (R-Va.),
Zell Miller (D-Ga.), as well as Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott
(R-Miss.) and Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction and Deputy
Prime Minister Natan Sharansky. Ralph Reed, a Georgia Republican Party
chairman and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, Donna
Brazille, former Gore 2000 campaign manager, and Walter Isaacson,
chairman and CEO of the CNN News Group will also address AIPAC.
(1) Rep. McKinney;
(2) Supporters of Rep. Cynthia McKinney take to streets during
final days of 4th Congressional District election; (3)
Rep. McKinney campaigns for reelection. (4) Min. Farrakhan talks
about importance of Black lawmakers working for Black interests. (5)