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Political Corner: Whites with Black Running Mates

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Political Corner: Whites with Black Running Mates

Political Corner: Whites with Black Running Mates

Political Corner: Whites with Black Running Mates

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NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams talks with the Rev. Joseph Watkins and Democratic campaign strategist Donna Brazile. Topics this week: white political candidates with black running mates, and the voting section of the U.S. Department of Justice catches criticism for its supposed right-wing politics.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon. This is News & Notes.

NPR Senior Correspondent Juan Williams is here with his Beltway insiders. Today's Political Corner focuses on white candidates and black running mates, also, on the ongoing battle over voting rights. Juan, over to you.

JUAN WILLIAMS, host:

Thanks, Ed. I'm joined now by Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000. Donna now runs her own political consulting firm in Washington. And also with us is Reverend Joseph Watkins, member of the Government Relations Committee at Buchanan Ingersoll, and a member of the first President Bush's White House staff. Reverend Watkins joins us from our NPR Bureau in New York. Thanks for joining me.

Mr. JOSEPH WATKINS (Member, Government Relations Committee at Buchanan Ingersoll): Thanks, Juan.

Ms. DONNA BRAZILE (Campaign Manager, Al Gore 2000 Democratic Campaign): Thanks.

WILLIAMS: The first topic today is white candidates running with black running mates. In Maryland, we see Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who is a candidate for the democratic nomination for governor, selecting Prince George's counties Anthony Brown as his running mate. Brown is speaker of the house in Maryland.

And in New York, you have New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, nominating David Paterson to be his running mate again in a gubernatorial race.

Donna Brazile, is the fashion and is it successful? Is there any track record of white candidates at the head of the ticket being supported by a black running mate and having a victory?

Ms. BRAZILE: Absolutely, Juan. First of all, this is some good developments on behalf of these two gubernatorial candidates. In 2002, the Republican Party ran and won with white candidates selecting black running mates. Of course, the most prominent black candidate was Michael Steel of Maryland.

Look, this is an interesting trend because currently we have eight statewide, black elected officials across the country, three in Georgia, one in Texas, two in Illinois, of course, Barack Obama is a statewide candidate, he's a United States Senator, and one in Connecticut, two in Ohio, and one in Maryland.

Of the eight, three are Republicans, five are Democrats. So this is a good development for the Democratic Party, a good development for those individuals.

In both cases, Anthony Brown is an experienced lawmaker who brings a number of assets to the ticket. In addition to being a lawmaker, he's an Iraqi Veteran and that's another trend that's taking place in the Democratic Party. We're selecting a lot of veterans to run on our tickets.

And in New York, of course, David Paterson is a very experienced lawmaker. He is a leader in the state house, in the state, as well as a prominent leader in Harlem.

There's a little problem in New York because Lisa Eaves who is a very prominent person in her own right, the daughter of a very popular African American author, Eaves is also considering running for lieutenant governor in the State of New York.

So this is a good development across the board and I do believe that this is a winning combination for both Mr. O'Malley as well as Mr. Spitzer in New York.

WILLIAMS: Now, Joe Watkins, you've got to win the democratic nomination. We're talking about Democrats here making the step. In the case of Martin O'Malley he is facing a popular Democrat from Montgomery County, one of the largest most affluent counties in the state, Doug Duncan.

Is it going to help him or can you anticipate that Doug Duncan is then going to get himself an African American running mate to counter or match what we've seen done by Martin O'Malley, similarly in New York State? Can you anticipate that?

Rev. WATKINS: What ...

WILLIAMS: Can you anticipate that?

Rev. WATKINS: What Duncan does have, on the short list, at least one African American: Joan Pratt. He's taking his time about naming somebody. But obviously, he's got to think very long and very hard, given what O'Malley has done by naming Anthony Brown to his running mate.

WILLIAMS: Okay, let's move on. Let's take a look at the Justice Department in Washington, quite a controversy there. The voting section of the U.S. Justice Department is under fire because senior officials are not taking the advice of the majority of section employees. The allegation being that the civil rights division, under President George W. Bush, is being politically influenced.

Joe Watkins, are we seeing the politicization of voting rights under the Bush Administration?

Rev. WATKINS: The thing that always gets me Warren is that people suppose that career employees in federal government are people who are, they're supposed to be nonpartisan, but the thought is that these people don't have an opinion, that don't have any kind of, they don't have leanings one way or the other, when the truth of the matter is that often times they do.

You'd be hard pressed to find anybody among the civil servants in government who doesn't have an opinion, a strong opinion, on all kinds of matters. So while this may have the appearance of the political appointees trying to run roughshod over the career people, the truth of the matter is that this is, I think, the part of some, this is a case of career people trying to undermine the political appointees because they happen to disagree with them philosophically.

WILLIAMS: Well, Donna, this is a point that's been made by others in the Bush Administration. The argument being that the voting rights section has always tilted to the left. And all you're seeing here is people expressing a different point of view.

Now do you think that it's unfair to charge somehow that Republicans are trying to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters through their actions at the Justice Department?

For example, in the case in Georgia, what you hear from republicans is you know the people who don't have photo ID overwhelmingly were convicted felons, illegal immigrants, they couldn't vote anyway.

And people who don't have photo ID, it's about equal black and white, or is it racial?

Ms. BRAZILE: Look, in Georgia, for example, in order to get an ID, many senior citizens do not have IDs. In order to get an ID, you have to go to, you know, the county office. The nearest county office in Fulton County, which is Atlanta, is almost 50 miles away. Now if you don't have any transportation, you've been to Georgia lately, if you don't have transportation, how are you going to get to the nearest office where you can, you know, purchase this ID?

WILLIAMS: Joe Watkins, now from the Republican side of the argument is that when you don't have these order IDs, you see a lot of corruption on election day, people packed in to vote when they shouldn't be, voting hours being extended. Do you really believe that or is that just the spin?

Rev. WATKINS: I believe it, Juan. I mean, the Bush Administration, this president is fully behind voting rights. And we don't need Congress to come in and to try to micromanage the Justice Department. I think this is something that's just fine for the Justice Department to handle itself.

WILLIAMS: Reverend Joseph Watkins is a member of the Government Relations Group at Buchanan Ingersoll and a member of the first President Bush's White House staff.

Reverend Watkins joined us from our bureau in New York City.

We've also been joined by Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Democratic Presidential Nominee Al Gore in 2000. She now runs her own political consulting firm here in Washington.

Thank you both for joining us.

Ms. BRAZILE: Thank you, Juan.

Rev. WATKINS: Thanks so much, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Back to you, Ed.

GORDON: Join us every Thursday for Juan Williams and his Washington insiders, right here on "Political Corner."

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