Race is on for Millender-McDonald seat

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 HAT TIP: Long Beach Press Telegram By Gene Maddaus

As soon as Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald is laid to rest today, the race to succeed her in Congress will begin in earnest.

State Assemblywoman Laura Richardson is expected to formally jump into the race this afternoon, while state Sen. Jenny Oropeza plans to make her announcement Wednesday. Both are Democrats.

Though Oropeza is considered by many to be the favorite, she is likely to face strong opposition from black leaders who are intent on holding on to an African-American seat in Congress.

“Without a doubt, the powers that be will make an effort to maintain that seat as an African-American seat,” said Gardena City Councilman Steve Bradford. “There’s plenty of viable African-Americans who can step in and fill that seat.”

Millender-McDonald was one of four black members of California’s congressional delegation. When she was elected 11 years ago, her district was 33.6 percent black. Since then, the black population has fallen sharply, to 22.7 percent today.

The district includes Compton, Carson, most of Long Beach and parts of Los Angeles. Nearly half the population – 47.6 percent – is Latino.

“I don’t think the 37th is going to be an African-American district for much longer,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a politics professor at USC. “I think it’s going to be Latino.”

Still, the demographic advantage does not guarantee the seat to a Latino candidate. Latinos make up a smaller percentage of the electorate than of the general population. But it does present a challenge to black candidates.

At the California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego over the weekend, state Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) said he would meet potential candidates either Friday or Saturday in an effort to narrow the field.

“We’re going to see if we can come up with a consensus,” said Dymally, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus. “Several candidates have indicated an interest. They all can’t win.”

Aside from Richardson, the potential black candidates who have been mentioned most frequently are Compton Councilman Isadore Hall and Millender-McDonald’s daughter, Valerie McDonald.

At the convention, Hall said he expected to make a decision within a week.

“I think that (the 37th District) being an African-American seat is very important,” Hall said. “We don’t want to lose a member on that caucus.”

Hall also said that McDonald, who has worked on her mother’s AIDS walks for many years, could be a formidable candidate.

Carson Councilman Mike Gipson, who is not running for the seat, said, “We just want someone we can go to, like we’ve had in the past.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set a June 26 primary election. The top Democrat in the field – who could get only a fraction of the total vote – will advance to the general election on Aug. 21 and will almost certainly win, given the overwhelmingly Democratic registration in the district.

In addition to Oropeza, at least one other Latino candidate, Long Beach 7th District Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, is considering a run.

Limiting the number of black candidates in the race would avoid splitting the black vote. In the interviews he will conduct later this week, Dymally said he would be looking for candidates with strong financial support and a good organization around them.

Dymally said there is a danger in using race as a factor in endorsements, but others said the purpose of the meetings is to help elect a black candidate.

“I think it is a priority for the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the state Legislative Black Caucus,” Gipson said. “There’s going to be a strong, concerted effort to ensure that this seat remains an African-American seat.”

The 37th District is not alone in losing black voters. Rep. Maxine Waters’ adjacent 35th Congressional District is more than half Latino, with the black population dropping below 30 percent. Rep. Diane Watson’s 33rd District is more evenly mixed, but is also less than 30 percent black.

Some expect that when the boundaries are redrawn in 2011, a segment of black voters in Millender-McDonald’s district will be transferred to Waters’ district to shore up her base. So even if a black candidate wins the seat this year, he or she could face a tough primary challenge from a Latino at some point in the next decade.

“They’re going to be losing a seat under any circumstance,” Jeffe said. “It’s a mirror of reality. It does decrease the black representation, but the black percentage of the population isn’t growing either.”

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Obama Neglects CBC obligations

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May 01, 2007
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has failed to raise money for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) even though it has been a year since he was asked to, and his main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination has done so, CBC members say.

CBC leaders asked Obama to hold a fundraiser for the caucus’s political action committee (PAC) a year ago but they have slim hopes that he will come through for them.Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama’s chief rival for the nomination, held a fundraiser for the PAC in March last year at the home of Dan Leeds, a Washington venture capitalist.

Clinton’s husband has also agreed to use his fundraising clout to help the CBC. At the end of June, former President Bill Clinton will chair a charity golf and tennis tournament organized by the spouses of Black Caucus members. The event will raise money for college scholarships. Another one-time Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), also responded to the caucus’s request to raise money for its PAC; he hosted a Capitol Hill event in February 2006.

Obama’s failure to match Clinton is significant because both are battling for support among black Democrats in the run-up to next year’s primaries. In South Carolina, for instance, the second primary in the nation, African-American voters are expected to make up about half of Democratic voters.

The support of Black Caucus members in the House could make a difference next year because they represent millions of African-American voters around the country.

Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), chairman of the caucus’s PAC, said the committee contacted Obama early last spring but has still not been able to schedule a fundraising date with him.

“My understanding is that the PAC reached out to him as well as several other people about helping with a fundraiser,” said Wynn. “We had some discussions but we didn’t lock in a firm date.”

Wynn said the CBC had never before asked Clinton, Bayh or Obama to hold a fundraiser. 

Wynn is informally supporting former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) in the primary.

Bill Burton, Obama’s campaign spokesman, said his boss has not yet held a fundraiser for the Black Caucus because of scheduling problems. Burton said that last year Obama campaigned for Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and then-Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), both CBC members. Burton said that Obama also gave money to the campaigns of several caucus members and held a fundraiser for Ford.

Obama did, however, give $5,000 from his reelection account to the CBC PAC in the 2006 election cycle, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com, a website that tracks fundraising. Clinton did not give money from her reelection account or leadership PAC, according to the website.

Wynn said he still expects Obama to hold a fundraiser for the PAC, but given Obama’s hectic presidential campaign and fundraising schedule, it appears unlikely that he will find time to do so before the primaries.

Wynn said Obama’s aides say he is “amenable” to hosting a fundraiser for the CBC and did not decline the request.

But other CBC members say Obama has missed making an important gesture to his House colleagues and that he could have found time to help them while he campaigned extensively for Democratic candidates last year.

 “I think it’s an important gesture,” said CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), who has not yet endorsed any candidate in the primary. “I think he should have done it. I do understand he’s now in the thick of what he’s doing and I find that unfortunate.

“Certainly he’s been fundraising all over the country for various people and I just wish he would also help the CBC because we have members all over. I think it would have been a benefit to him as well as to the CBC.”

Kilpatrick said CBC members represent about 40 million people in 26 states; 10 caucus members represent districts that are not majority African-American and thus could face competitive races in the future.

“The demographic has changed,” she added.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who as of last week had not endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate, said Obama might not have realized the importance of holding a fundraiser for the CBC because he is fairly new to Washington’s political scene. Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004.

“Most people don’t know him well,” said Cleaver. “Because he doesn’t know us well, I don’t think his advisers had an idea about the importance of that gesture to the CBC; whereas Mrs. Clinton is surrounded by people who have been involved with or in some instances members of the Congressional Black Caucus.”

Cleaver said that some caucus members would overlook Obama’s failure so far to hold a fundraiser for them but added that others would be disappointed. He predicted many CBC members would end up endorsing Clinton.

“Mrs. Clinton, as we expected her to, definitely stepped up,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a sizeable number of CBC members joining her campaign, not just because of the fundraiser, [but] because of her history of stepping up, not just with money but on issues.”

dblhelix pointed this article out to us and I think it is significant.  Portions are excerpted here.  None of the Sistahs are on board.  Given the power of the female members of the CBC and their penchant for being more progressive than the men, this signals an important rift between the men and the women of the caucus.  It could also signal something deeper.

Rasmussen Poll: Obama bests Hillary 32% to 30%

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photo by ekeisari

HAT TIP: Rasmussen Reports 

For the first time in the Election 2008 season, somebody other than New York Senator Hillary Clinton is on top in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows Illinois Senator Barack Obama with a statistically insignificant two point advantage over the former First Lady. It’s Obama 32% Clinton 30%. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards remains in third with support holding steady at 17%. No other candidate tops 3%. The survey was conducted April 23-26, 2007 meaning that the overwhelming majority of the interviews were completed before last Thursday’s debate in South Carolina. The impact of the debate will be measured in polling conducted this week.

Following a surprisingly strong fundraising report released at the end of March, Obama steadily gained ground during April. The last Rasmussen Reports poll released in March found Clinton enjoying a dozen-point lead. Since then, Clinton’s support has fallen seven percentage points while Obama’s total has increased the same amount. Obama now leads among voters under 40. Clinton is strongest among those 65 and older. Clinton has a two-point edge among Democrats. Obama has a nineteen-point lead among independents likely to vote in a Democratic primary.

Last week, the two top candidates were tied at 32%. Two weeks ago, Clinton had a two-point lead. Three weeks ago, it was Clinton by five. The week before that, the former First Lady was up by seven.

A separate surveyfound that Clinton is seen as politically liberal by 52% of American voters. Forty-four percent (44%) say the same about Obama while 39% see Edwards as politically liberal. Perceptions of Clinton’s ideology have shifted a bit closer to the political center in recent months. Obama has moved in the opposite direction—more to the left.

However, while Clinton is seen as being somewhat to the left of Obama among all voters, that is not the case among Democrats. Democrats tend to view most of their leading candidates as politically moderate. Perceptions among Democrats of Clinton and Obama are very similar.

Obama and Clinton are the frontrunners, but Edwards does best in general election match-ups. He leads all GOP hopefuls and is the only Democrat to lead the Republican frontrunner, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (see match-ups and favorability ratings for all Democratic candidates.