Washington Prowler

The Skinny on McKinney

Live by conspiracy, die by conspiracy. Also: Clinton gives Georgia the eye. Plus: McCain prepares to roll.

By 8.22.02

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VASTER THAN SHE KNEW
Rep. Cynthia McKinney loves a good conspiracy. So it's fitting that her defeat in the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary was brought about, in part, by one.

And unlike her fanciful "Bush knew about September 11th before it happened" tale, McKinney was right on with her claim of a campaign conspiracy against her. The day before the election, she told reporters that she was well aware that Republicans in her district, which includes parts of Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, were going to vote on the Democratic ballot in support of her opponent, Judge Denise Majette.

McKinney's father, Billy McKinney, a state representative, saw an even grander conspiracy against his daughter's re-election bid, and spelled it out -- literally: "J-E-W-S." He too failed to win outright victory in his re-election bid, though unlike his daughter and he has survived to face a runoff election.

It will take some time before it's known just how much Republican support Majette received in the final voting. The state GOP had made it clear that it thought it was a good idea for party loyalists to vote to toss out McKinney. But Majette's defeat of McKinney was so sound that it's doubtful she needed much Republican backing. Initial reports out of Georgia had voter turnout in the 4th District at better than 45 percent, the highest turnout anywhere in the state.

"Democrats around here were just as embarrassed by her as Republicans were," says a Georgia Democratic Party grassroots organizer. "Some of us were getting out the vote to ensure Majette won. We were going to toss her with or without Republican help."

McKinney had always enjoyed strong support in her district, but the final straw may have been her father's Jewish crack. "It just capped off an ugly, ugly race," says the Democratic operative.

Further ugliness involved McKinney's use of endorsements made for her in earlier races. Last week, she ran ads citing the support of former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young. But Young didn't endorse McKinney for her 2002 bid. That support was given back in 1998.

But she did have support from those people you'd expect: many of the black leaders who have cozied up to Arab and Arab-American money. Louis Farrakhan endorsed her. Jesse Jackson visited McKinney's district two weeks ago and campaigned for her. Martin Luther King III appeared at last-minute get out the vote rallies on her behalf. In the end, nothing helped, not even the 200 or so homeless people McKinney hired to help organize the election celebration and to pass out leaflets at polling places.

According to the Democratic operative, McKinney knew she was a loser by early evening. But McKinney, perhaps hoping another conspiracy -- say, the mysterious appearance of ballot boxes stuffed with 30,000 votes for her -- would save her, refused to concede until well after midnight. By then, her homeless helpers were getting antsy. They had not been paid and believed that there were being stiffed by McKinney's staff. The homeless started an impromptu protest that brought further embarrassment to McKinney's campaign.

VACATION UPDATE
Bill Clinton may have been on vacation, but that didn't mean he wasn't interested in one particular primary election on Tuesday. And it wasn't even a Democratic election. Clinton, who thus far had shown little interest in the primary battle between Rep. John Linder and Clinton archnemesis Rep. Bob Barr, asked to be updated on the vote on Tuesday evening.

No word on whether or not Clinton took glee in the sound beating that Barr received at the hands of his congressional colleague. But the Prowler is pretty sure a self-satisfied smile washed across Clinton's mug.

THE AMERICAN GROWLER
If you've been missing Sen. John McCain in your morning paper, expect to see him exploding on newsprint next week. That's because the Federal Election Commission will be taking up hearings leading up to its laying down rules on issue-oriented advertising in elections. The hearings are all part of the FEC's following through on the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. The commission is mulling over rules that will affect everything from what role union members can play in assisting the Democratic Party to the mechanism by which a special-interest group, say, the National Rifle Association, can buy radio or TV time to press an issue important to them around election time.

McCain has already expressed unhappiness at the way the FEC has been going about what he perceives to be his business. "This is his legacy in many ways," says a Republican Senate staffer for a Western state Republican. "He's let everyone know that he's monitoring the FEC's activities, and the activities of his colleagues when it comes to supporting campaign finance reform. He's become a watchdog." A Doberman?

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