Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun
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Carol Moseley Braun.
Credit: Carol Moseley Braun campaign
In 1992, Carol Moseley Braun became the first African-American woman to win election in the U.S. Senate.
Credit: Ken Rudin, NPR News
Note: Carol Moseley Braun announced her withdrawal from the race Jan. 15, 2004. Carol Moseley-Braun's 2004 presidential campaign Web site.
May 6, 2003 -- NPR's Bob Edwards spoke with former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois as part of an ongoing Morning Edition series of interviews with each of the announced candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Below, NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin provides background on the Moseley Braun candidacy.
It has become a tired cliche by now, but 1992 will long be remembered in
the annals of political history as the "Year of the Woman." There were 11
female candidates for the Senate in the 1992 general election, by far the
most ever, with four new women elected, also a record. But for the most
part, the poster child for the election was Carol Moseley Braun. Her upset
over a seemingly entrenched senator in the Democratic primary came just
five months after Anita Hill testified against the nomination of Clarence
Thomas for the Supreme Court, an event that galvanized female voters around
the country. Moseley Braun became the Senate's first (and thus far only)
African-American woman when she won comfortably in November.
There was something special about Carol Moseley Braun, I remember thinking
at the time, as I stood a couple of feet away from her on the floor of the
Democratic National Convention that summer in New York. They gave her only
a couple of minutes to address the Madison Square Garden crowd. But as she
stood there in the middle of the Illinois delegation, with the spotlight on
her and her radiant smile, I remember taking note of that moment, and came
away with the feeling of history about to be made.
If there was tremendous promise in Carol Moseley Braun's career in 1992, it
had very much dissipated by 1998. There was a sense that she had
squandered a tremendous opportunity. For starters, she was accused of
(though never formally charged with) campaign finance irregularities, her
then-fiance (and campaign manager) was accused of sexual harassment by
female campaign workers, and her "private" trip to Nigeria in 1996, where
she visited with and defended dictator Sani Abacha, was widely panned, even
by many Democrats. Considerably outspent, she lost her bid for re-election
in 1998, the only Democratic incumbent to be ousted that year, and the first
Illinois Democrat to lose a Senate race in 20 years. (She was subsequently
appointed by President Clinton as ambassador to New Zealand.)
So in that context, it seems a bit surprising to find Moseley Braun
throwing her hat into the presidential ring. Her late entry into the race
may help explain her paltry fund-raising totals for the first quarter of
2003 ($72,000), but in a process where money brings media attention and
supporters, she is well behind the other eight White House wannabes.
Another indication that she is not considered a first-tier candidate is the
amount of time she got at Saturday's (May 3) Democratic debate in Columbia,
S.C. She wasn't recognized by the moderator, ABC's George Stephanopoulos,
until about 15 minutes into the event, and only one candidate, Connecticut Sen.
Joe Lieberman, bothered to ask her a direct question -- a softball about
the importance of the black vote. (To her credit, Moseley Braun had one
of the best lines of the night, when she insisted that the black vote DID
in fact decide the 2000 election -- Clarence Thomas' vote.)
Still, she opposed the war to remove Saddam Hussein, wondering (as she did
during the debate) why the U.S. is concerned about jobs for Iraq but not
jobs for South Carolina. She is critical of President Bush's handling of
the economy (as is every other Democratic candidate). The only woman in
the field of nine candidates, she remains upbeat and optimistic about her
chances, although she concedes that she might take a harder look in the
fall to decide whether to stay in the race. The Illinois primary, presumably
her best state, comes too late in the process to do her much good.
Related NPR Stories
Jan. 15, 2003: Carol Moseley Braun withdraws from the race and throws her support to Howard Dean.
Dec. 18, 2003: Braun speaks about her campaign with NPR's Tony Cox on The Tavis Smiley Show.
Nov. 24, 2003: An All Things Considered interview with Carol Moseley Braun.
Sept. 22, 2003: Moseley Braun formally announces her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Aug. 26, 2003: All Things Considered presents an excerpt of Moseley Braun's stump speech.
Aug. 5, 2003: On Day to Day, Slate political columnist Will Saletan translates Moseley Braun's favorite buzzwords.
Feb. 19, 2003: Listen to an NPR News report on Moseley Braun establishing a presidential exploratory committee.
Feb. 19, 2003: Hear a Talk of the Nation discussion on Moseley Braun and other Democrats running for president.
Feb. 7, 2003: Listen to a Morning Edition report on presidential candidates competing for the black vote in 2004.
More Morning Edition interviews with the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates