Black leaders push support for Majette

A rift is opening up between the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

For weeks, CBC members have been griping about what they see as the campaign committee’s lackluster support for Democratic Rep. Denise Majette’s Senate bid in Georgia. These frustrations came to a head at a meeting last week, when CBC members asked DSCC Chairman Sen. Jon Corzine (N.J.) to give Majette more money.
A rift is opening up between the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

For weeks, CBC members have been griping about what they see as the campaign committee’s lackluster support for Democratic Rep. Denise Majette’s Senate bid in Georgia. These frustrations came to a head at a meeting last week, when CBC members asked DSCC Chairman Sen. Jon Corzine (N.J.) to give Majette more money.
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Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga.)

CBC members said the DSCC’s decision to spend approximately $70,000 on Majette’s campaign — compared to nearly $600,000 on Democrat Inez Tenenbaum in South Carolina — suggests either a quiet, thinly veiled racism or an assumption that Georgia voters won’t support a black woman like Majette for Senate.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a CBC member, said: “It’s race more than anything else.”

The growing tension between black leaders and the campaign committee comes at the same time that many black politicians have complained that Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has failed to electrify black voters.

DSCC spokesman Brad Woodhouse yesterday dismissed any suggestion that the group had ignored Majette’s uphill battle against Republican Rep. Johnny Isakson.

“Of all the political organizations … in the country, we are not only her largest contributor, we have done more than any other political organization” to help the Majette campaign, Woodhouse said.

The DSCC has given Majette a $34,000 direct contribution, as it has given to other Democrats in competitive races, and has spent another $34,000 in coordinated expenditures.

Most of the coordinated money went to a poll conducted in late August. That poll, repeatedly cited by CBC members and Majette campaign staffers, showed Majette trailing Isakson by five points.

Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon poll conducted Sept. 27-29 in South Carolina showed Tenenbaum 12 points behind her Republican rival, Rep. Jim DeMint. A poll recently conducted by the Tenenbaum campaign gives her a three-point edge.

“We asked Senator Corzine to look at the Majette race and try to make sure she was treated fairly,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the CBC chairman. “He assured us that she would be getting additional funds.”

Cummings said he had “no clue” how much that would be; Woodhouse said he was unaware of other money earmarked for Majette.

Majette campaign spokesman Rick Dent said that the DSCC would host a fundraiser today for Majette in Washington bringing together various PACs but that the DSCC has “not said anything about the big money like independent expenditures and 441a(d),” meaning further coordinated-campaign expenditures.

Democrats in Washington have not exactly ignored Majette: Corzine contributed $10,000 to her campaign from his leadership PAC; Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the second in command at the DSCC, has offered to raise money for her; and the DSCC has given the congresswoman free office space to make fundraising calls.

And there’s been some grumbling from Democrats that CBC members have not contributed the maximum possible to Majette’s campaign. A Majette aide shrugged off that assertion, noting that the Oct. 15 Federal Election Commission finance reports have yet to come out and that “a majority” of CBC members have contributed.

Democrats close to the Tenenbaum campaign, in South Carolina, observed that the DSCC recruited Tenenbaum while Majette jumped into the race without any prodding, meaning Tenenbaum had more leverage to secure DSCC money.

Democrats in Washington said they were surprised when Majette announced her candidacy.

Democrats in Georgia and Washington also have complained that Majette alienated many Jewish voters — who would normally be key supporters — by vacating her House seat.

In 2002, Jewish groups across the country helped Majette defeat then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) in the 4th District’s Democratic primary.

McKinney ran successfully for her old seat in this year’s Democratic primary. She is all but certain to win in November in the predominantly Democratic district on the outskirts of Atlanta.

Cummings voiced hope that President Clinton would campaign for Majette. “I just want him to stop by on his way to Florida,” Cummings said.

Cummings also stressed that CBC members like Corzine but that they took issue with the decisions being made at the DSCC. “I think if it were just up to him, this campaign would be well-funded,” he said.

CBC members, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), have generally praised Majette’s campaign, noting that she won the Democratic Senate primary despite being opposed by state party officials.

Yesterday, Majette announced in Atlanta a proposal to create a new, expanded GI Bill. The bill would provide veterans with free education at any public college in the country — including fees, tuition, books, room and board and a yearly $1,500 stipend — as well as generous healthcare services.

Dent, Majette’s spokesman, said the bill would pay for itself. He cited a 1988 congressional report indicating that for every $1 in education spending on veterans, tax revenue jumped $6.90.

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