CBC members travel to Michigan to help Kilpatrick fight off primary challenge

Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) brought senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to Detroit to help her stave off a tough primary challenge.

In the final 72 hours before the vote, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) campaigned for Kilpatrick. She was also joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), according to a spokesman for her campaign.

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Kilpatrick, who has served in the House for 14 years, is trying to avoid becoming the sixth incumbent to lose her seat in a primary race this cycle. Her main challenger for the nomination is state Sen. Hansen Clarke (D), whose legislative constituency overlaps with the 13th Congressional District.

Clarke made curbing foreclosures the center of his campaign, while Kilpatrick has sought to avoid the taint of her son’s jailing by positioning herself as an ally of President Obama and touting the millions in federal dollars she’s steered to her district.

For the past six weeks, Kilpatrick has been on cable television with a TV ad that notes she serves on the “powerful” Appropriations Committee. “And she’s brought in over $1 billion in federal funds to our state,” a female announcer says in the ad. The ad has also aired on broadcast TV for the final week of the campaign, according to a Kilpatrick spokesman.

Kilpatrick has been able to associate herself closely with the Obama administration, even though she never got his formal endorsement. She greeted the president when he stepped off Air Force One on Friday at the Detroit Metro Airport.

Later, during an event at a General Motors plant, Obama called her a “wonderful congresswoman.” Kilpatrick also made a show of attending a press conference Monday morning with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to announce the steps needed to move toward developing a light-rail system in the city.

She spent the rest of the day campaigning at community centers and other venues around the city, a spokesman for her campaign said.

Observers say the race will hinge on turnout, which is expected to be near 20 percent.

“She doesn’t have to tell voters who she is, she just has to turn out her supporters,” a Michigan-based campaign strategist said. “She has a good machine in place and knows how to work it.”

Some observers believe the political downfall of Kilpatrick’s son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, will cost the congresswoman her reelection.

“I said all along Hansen Clarke would beat her, and I still feel that way,” said Bill Ballenger, who edits the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.

Kilpatrick narrowly edged out her two primary rivals in 2008, and this cycle she faces a six-way race for the nomination. Ballenger said he didn’t expect that to make it an easier race for her. “Almost all the anti-incumbent vote is going to go to Clarke,” he said. The other primary challengers “don’t have any political traction. It’s either Clarke or Kilpatrick.”

Two recent polls show Clarke in the lead and Kilpatrick’s support hovering around 30 percent. Kilpatrick won her 2008 primary with 39 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the congresswoman has raised more than $1 million this cycle, and had $280,000 left in her campaign coffers on July 14, according to her Federal Election Commission report. Clarke has raised more than $130,000 and had $71,000 banked for the final stretch of the campaign.

Kwame Kilpatrick left office in 2008 amid a ballooning corruption scandal and has since served time in prison. He’s in jail for a state probation violation and is awaiting trial on a fraud and tax indictment, according to The Detroit News.

Kwame Kilpatrick is also in the headlines for having to testify in a lawsuit brought by the family of slain exotic dancer Tamara “Strawberry” Greene. The family is suing the former mayor and the city for allegedly obstructing the investigation into her 2003 murder.

Greene is reported to have attended an infamous Manoogian Mansion party, where witnesses say she was assaulted by Kwame Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita.

“When he first was in trouble and running for reelection [in 2005], she was standing up for him,” said Ballenger of the mother and son. “Those words have come back to haunt her.”

Clarke said he’s focused on the issue of home foreclosure, not the Kilpatrick family.

“It’s not at all about the Kilpatrick family. It’s a vote on the taxpayers wanting to take control of how their money is spent,” Clarke said. “That’s what this is a referendum on. We’re in a depression.”

He sounded confident as he campaigned on the streets of Detroit in the closing hours of the race. “We’re going to win; there’s no doubt there,” he said.

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