Skip to comments.BLACKS SAY THEY DO NOT TRUST HIM [Erskine Bowles]
Posted on 01/11/2004 1:54:19 PM PST by JohnnyZ
''I have never been so excited about a campaign.''
That was the declaration of Erskine Bowles, once again a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, before the NC Black Leadership Caucus (NCBLC) two weeks ago.
Obviously buoyed by early polls that give him a double-digit lead over probable GOP opponent Congressman Richard Burr, Bowles came before NCBLC, at their invitation, with enthusiasm and promises to represent the black community's interests if elected this time.
''I do think we are going to win,'' the Charlotte investment banker and former Clinton White House chief of staff said emphatically. But to do that, Bowles admitted that unlike his first Senate run in 2002 that ended in a crushing defeat to Republican Elizabeth Dole, this time he would come to the African-American community early, seeking its support.
''So that we can shape this campaign not at the end, but at the beginning,'' Bowles told the 30 NCBLC members present, ''so that I can be a more effective [and] better candidate, and hopefully a better senator, when we win.''
But Bowles' optimism, though laudable, may be more dream than reality. Not only does the moderate Democratic candidate face many of the same election challenges with black voters other Democrats in the state and across the South will have to contend with in 2004, but Bowles has an additional set of concerns dating back to before he ran in 2002.
At the top of that list - blacks dont trust him.
That was evident in the decisive 54%-44% defeat to Liddy Dole in 2002. ''Everyone agrees that if Bowles is to have a shot at beating Dole, he has to have the black community in his corner all the way,'' the Washington Prowler column in American Prospect Magazine reported before election.
''Chief among Bowles' problems is his need to turn out black voters, who vote Democratic over 90 percent of the time and make up 34 percent of registered Democrats in the state,'' columnist Tara Servatius wrote in the Sept. 18, 2002 edition of Creative Loafing Charlotte, an online publication, adding that Bowles ''won less than a third of the black vote across the state in the [Democratic] primary.''
''Short of creating a racial issue in the next six weeks that will resonate with the African-American community,'' Servatius continued then, ''Bowles' best hope of selling himself to the black community is his experience working for [Pres.] Clinton.''
As history proved, even that wasn't enough.
After a massive targeted mailing campaign to black voters, a special recorded message from former President Clinton, and Bowles promising the crowd at a last minute get-out-the-vote rally in Durham, ''I will work my heart out for civil rights,'' the majority of African-American voters found something else to do on Election Day.
''How can this happen?'' University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock rhetorically asked a reporter after Bowles and other Southern Democrats went down in defeat. ''One of two ways: Either, one, blacks didn't turn out. Or, two, blacks were voting Republican. I think blacks not turning out is more likely.
'' [B]ase precinct turnout continues to trail that of non-base precincts, undermining our ability to win close races,'' Donna Brazile, Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign manager, wrote in a post-Election 2002 Democratic Party memo.
''In North Carolina, our statewide examination of over 1,400 majority African American precincts indicates that Erskine Bowles ran at Democratic performance in majority African American precincts (74 percent) and turnout in base precincts ran inline with 1998 turnout (36 percent in 1998 to 35 percent in 2002). However, again turnout in majority minority precincts continued to lag behind that of majority white precincts by 10 points (45 percent to 35 percent),'' Brazile wrote.
''We are failing to build upon and expand our base electorate.''
It was hard to see that black base expanding given Bowles' history.
As The Carolinian first and exclusively reported in 2002, the contradictions in Bowles personal and political positions were considerable, and gave many black voters pause.
Despite all of the ''good work'' Bowles claims he did for black businesses when he headed up the federal Small Business Administration during the mid-1990s, and having ''fought hard against racial profiling my entire life,'' Bowles admits to not doing much to change the culture of many of the all-white country clubs he held membership in, and conveniently leaving those clubs only when it would looked bad politically.
At the NCBLC meeting last month, Bowles said, ''I was wrong, I made a mistake, and I'm sorry I did it.''
Actually, there was more than ''a mistake.''
Bowles left the clubs when he joined the Clinton Administration in the early nineties, rejoined the clubs when he left the White House in 1998, then left the clubs again when he decided to run for the Senate in 2002.
After he lost that year, Bowles denies that he rejoined the clubs, even though he made it clear then that he probably wouldnt run for public office again.
Obviously Mr. Bowles is talking out of both sides of his mouth, Jim Wiggins, executive director of the N.C. State Conference of NAACP Branches, told The Carolinian in 2002. Thats something the black community needs to know, because if he does it now, hell do it if elected.
There was also evidence of Bowles supporting school vouchers in the past; supporting Charlotte's school choice program that ultimately resegregated the public school system there; and fully backing the NAFTA free trade treaty that he now says he opposes and has cost North Carolina, and many of its rural communities, tens of thousands of textile jobs that have gone overseas.
It was also well known that one of Bowles' closest campaign advisers, Winfall Mayor Fred Yates, was also the third vice president and chair of the Political Action Committee of the supposedly nonpartisan NC NAACP Conference of Branches.
For the record, Bowles denies he ever supported school vouchers, says he is absolutely for school choice but against the racial resegregation that has been the result, and had no idea of the devastating impact that NAFTA would have on his home state when he supported it.
But there are now new concerns for blacks about a new Bowles Senate candidacy.
At the NC Black Leadership Caucus meeting last month, Bowles expressed concerns about the payday lending industry, which charges exorbitant interest rates on short-term loans, primarily in poor communities of color.
''I think the rates payday lenders charge are absolutely outrageous. The payback period is so short, it just traps people in that cycle [of debt],'' Bowles NCBLC, adding that if banks and credit unions were ''doing their jobs payday lenders would be out of business.''
But one of Bowles' ''great personal friends of mine'' is a payday lender who has contributed money to at least one of Bowles' causes.
As The Carolinian first and exclusively reported last year, Billy Webster, the president/CEO of the South Carolina-based Advance America, Inc., worked under Chief of Staff Bowles in the Clinton White House in the late 1990s. His name came up during the controversy last summer involving state NAACP Pres. Melvin ''Skip'' Alston's alleged support to re-establish payday lending in the state.
''Erskine remains a close friend, as is his wife, Crandall and he's been involved in a lot of issues,'' Webster told The Carolinian exclusively last June, denying reports that Bowles was lobbying for him.
''I wouldnt back away from my friendship with Billy for anything,'' Bowles told NCBLC last month. ''We just dont agree on this issue.''
But not only had Webster, Alston and Yates communicated about the payday lending issue amid reports that the NAACP chief and his third vp were lobbying lawmakers for passage, but at least one state House member told The Carolinian that Bowles himself was also lobbying on behalf of his friend.
''[Bowles] has been, he made a call, I know to [a named legislator] and a few other folks that I'm aware of,'' state Rep. H.M. ''Mickey'' Michaux [D-Durham] confirmed to The Carolinian last June.
In addition, Webster is on record contributing $10,000 over two years ago to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation that Bowles and his wife started.
How can Bowles, if he's elected to the Senate, vote to put more restrictions on the payday lending industry given not only his ties to Billy Webster, but the fact that he's accepted money from him?
Bowles angrily told The Carolinian that the inquiry was ''unfair'' and that there was nothing wrong with Webster contributing money to his diabetes foundation.
''Billy Webster did give money to it, and I'm glad he did,'' Bowles angrily added. ''That money doesnt go to me, I dont get credit for it.''
When asked if he had accepted any money from Webster for his 2002 campaign, Bowles said ''I haven't.''
And would Bowles accept a campaign donation from Webster now?
''It's tough. It's not going to influence me. Nobody's going to buy my influence, nobody's going to intimidate me, nobody's going to get me to do something I think is wrong.''
Still, Bowles faces an uphill challenge come the 2004 Senate election, assuming no other Democrat, like former state House Speaker Dan Blue, doesn't successfully take the mantle from him before November.
With Pres. Bush riding high and strong in the polls, the economy booming and the president's political coattails looking strong, whatever perceived advantage Bowles feels he has now could easily evaporate by the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The Dems presidential frontrunner, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, if he is the nominee, is already predicted to run weak in the South.
In addition, there are five open Democratic Senate seats in the South, a region that is trending Republican, and the black voting base is not excited.
North Carolina's Senate seat is one of those up for grabs.
''Republicans have a fighting chance or a very good chance at one level or another in all five of those states, so it's a big problem for Democrats...'' elections analyst Ron Faucheux told FOX News recently.
A Dec. 16 Washington Post editorial noted, '' [this] could be a boon to Republican efforts to expand their strong base in the region and widen their narrow Senate majority... ,'' adding, ''without incumbents in those races, political strategists see all five as competitive and leaning toward the GOP in some cases.''
Unless Erskine Bowles can overcome not only the Democratic Party barriers, but his own, in order to eek out a victory come November, he may lose once again, by the biggest margin on a North Carolina Senate race in a quarter century.
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Why should they be excited about Bowles, or anyone like him? He'll shovel a little taxpayer money at the usual "community leaders," if they've shoveled a little into his campaign ... and then he expects the "colored" to keep in their place until the next time he wants their votes.
I hope the Republican candidate will be a cut above this drivel.
ROFL! I would like to see the day :)
I didn't think so.
I think old Irksome is in need of a Al Gore style makeover to help jump start his campaign. He can start with the gigantic glasses.