Republicans played key role in McKinney defeat

Outspoken progressive Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was defeated in a bitter primary fight Aug. 20 by combined efforts of the Republican Party and other right-wingers, including powerful backers of the Israeli government’s hard-line anti-Palestinian policies.

With 99 percent of the vote counted in Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, McKinney’s opponent, Denise Majette, a former Republican, had 58 percent of the vote and McKinney 42 percent. Most media reports and McKinney herself said a key factor in her defeat was what she termed “massive Republican crossover” voting, which is allowed under Georgia’s open primary system. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which had strongly promoted Majette, cited a “swarm of Republicans from north DeKalb county” as playing a major role in the outcome. In suburban Gwinnett County, there was also a heavy Republican crossover vote favoring Majette.

McKinney, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus, has a 100 percent pro-labor voting record for all of her five terms in Congress and was backed by labor in her primary battle against Majette. She was first elected to Congress in 1992.

Majette, also an African American, is a former judge who has never run for office before. She supports the Bush administration’s effort to repeal the estate tax, a move widely seen as a giveaway to the rich, and has been accused of representing the interests of the insurance industry.

As of the end of July, Majette had raised $875,557 compared to the $590,095 reported by McKinney’s campaign. Majette received significant financial and other backing from supporters of the Israeli government’s harsh military tactics against the Palestinian people. But McKinney, who spoke publicly for a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, was the target of a media barrage assailing support she received from Arab Americans or individuals with a Muslim-sounding name.

A similar pattern occurred in an Alabama Democratic primary in June, where another Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. Earl Hilliard, who expressed support for Palestinian rights, lost to Artur Davis, who got major backing from pro-Israeli-government donors. Some of the groups and individuals funding Majette also funded Davis.

Majette is expected to win in the November elections in the heavily Democratic congressional district.

Jarvis Tyner, executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA, told the World the Majette campaign represents Republicans fighting to maintain their power in Congress by putting forward “a Democrat who is beholden to the Republicans.” Tyner called the McKinney defeat “a warning signal to the progressive movement to mobilize and build broad coalitions.” Otherwise, he said, the ultra-right will “manipulate and use unscrupulous tactics to hold on to their power, even though public sentiment is going against them.”

In another Georgia primary, high-profile ultra-right Rep. Bob Barr, a four-term Republican who was one of the House managers in President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, lost to another, though somewhat less extreme, right-wing Republican, Rep. John Linder. The two were forced to run against each other because of redistricting.

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org