Black Hopefuls Join U.S. Senate Race

Perhaps it was the overwhelming victory of state Sen. Barack Obama in the Chicago Democratic primary that inspired Congresswoman Denise Majette to announce her candidacy for the Georgia Senate seat vacated by Zell Miller. Despite Majette’s late start against other Democratic candidates — state Senator Mary Squires, attorney Gary Leshaw, and millionaire Cliff Oxford — Merle Black, professor of politics at Emory University, says he thinks Majette will try to leverage her considerable name recognition into a Democratic nomination.

If Majette wins, waiting for her at the general election in November could be another African American: Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, who some say represents the new face of black Republicans. “Cain could possibly be the most conservative Republican in this primary,” says Black. Cain has never held or run for office in Georgia and is up against two congressional members: Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson. At the time of this writing, Isakson was leading in polls.

Unlike Cain or Obama, who entered the Senate race 16 months before the Illinois primary, Majette abandoned re-election to her current congressional position to toss her hat into the running for the U.S. Senate less than four months before the Georgia primary this month. “She has completely disrupted her fundraising ability,” says Black, who also notes that “she has upset her original supporters who wanted her to stay in her current position.”

Majette was thrust into the spotlight during the highly publicized 2002 race when she was up against controversial former 4th District Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Even if she does receive the Democratic nomination, money will be a primary obstacle. Political analysts say it takes $2 million to win in the Georgia general election.

Zina C. Pierre is one of the vice chairpersons of Future PAC, a national African American women’s political action committee. She stresses the importance of Majette raising funds outside of Georgia: “While her base is in Georgia and while it’s important for her to get Georgia’s vote, she should know that African Americans around the country would love the opportunity to invest in a black woman making it to the Senate.”

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