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Commentary: Moseley Braun may fold tent

By AL SWANSON   |   May 22, 2003 at 3:31 PM   |   Comments

CHICAGO, May 22 (UPI) -- Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun had local political analysts scratching their heads when she announced plans to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in February.

"What is on Carol's mind she couldn't even get re-elected," people said.

There was speculation among black activists that Braun's campaign was some kind of Democratic "dirty trick" to blunt the campaign of New York City activist Al Sharpton, who is running citing the impact his mentor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had on the party during his historic campaigns in 1984 and 1988.

Jackson registered more than 2 million new voters, Sharpton said during an appearance at Today's Black Woman Expo last month, adding that led to the election and re-election of Bill Clinton.

Braun was struck by political lightning in 1992 when she defeated incumbent Sen. Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary in a backlash against Dixon for his vote on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from suburban white, Republican women who crossed party lines to register their anger. In the general election, Braun faced only token opposition from Republican Rich Williamson.

Pundits dubbed the election "the year of the woman."

But she quickly squandered an ocean of goodwill outside her core African-American constituency with missteps involving her former campaign manager and trips to cavort with Nigeria's late military dictator Sani Abacha.

Braun said the Nigerian accusations "were nothing more than racist shorthand," in a March 22, 2003, letter to the Washington Post. She has remained popular outside her home state because of her historic role as the first black woman in the Senate.

She was defeated in 1996 by Republican state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a wealthy suburban banker who spent $14 million of his personal fortune on his campaign. The 42-year-old maverick decided in April not to tap his personal wealth again to run for a second term.

Had Fitzgerald's decision come earlier Braun might have decided to try to reclaim her old Senate seat but she had launched her presidential campaign.

She raised just $72,000 since announcing her run, the least of any of the Democrat hopefuls. Sharpton raised $10,000 more.

The former senator and ambassador to New Zealand told a candidates forum in Washington Tuesday sponsored by EMILY's List, an organization that raises funds for female candidates that support abortion, she had three options: win the nomination, make a showing as the only woman presidential candidate or "fold my tent and go away, and of course then it will be my fault."

"We need your help, we need your checks, we need your networking, we need your support," Braun said. "Without it, really it will be a lonely effort to try to carry the burden of empowering women totally on the backs of a little campaign."

Without feminist help the Braun campaign is dead and EMILY's List is not known for wasting resources on candidates with little chance of success.

After the forum an EMILY's List spokesman told the Chicago Tribune, "We are looking at their viability."

Braun is not the first black woman to run for president. Former Rep. Shirley St. Hill Chisholm of New York, the first black woman elected to Congress, did that back in 1972.

A U.S. Senate candidate's poll of 1,000 Illinois primary voters obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times found Braun and Missouri candidate Richard Gephardt each with 17 percent, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Al Gore's 2000 running mate at 16 percent, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., 11 percent, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at 5 percent, Sen. John Edwards, D-S.C., 4 percent, Sharpton 2 percent and Florida Sen. Bob Graham at 1 percent. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who was left off the list in a poll in which 26 percent were undecided, raised $178,080 in the first quarter.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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