Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun

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Carol Moseley Braun
Carol Moseley Braun.
Credit: Carol Moseley Braun campaign

'Carol Moseley Braun for U.S. Senate' button
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.

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

more Jan. 15, 2003: Carol Moseley Braun withdraws from the race and throws her support to Howard Dean.

more Dec. 18, 2003: Braun speaks about her campaign with NPR's Tony Cox on The Tavis Smiley Show.

more Nov. 24, 2003: An All Things Considered interview with Carol Moseley Braun.

more Sept. 22, 2003: Moseley Braun formally announces her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

more Aug. 26, 2003: All Things Considered presents an excerpt of Moseley Braun's stump speech.

more Aug. 5, 2003: On Day to Day, Slate political columnist Will Saletan translates Moseley Braun's favorite buzzwords.

more Feb. 19, 2003: Listen to an NPR News report on Moseley Braun establishing a presidential exploratory committee.

more Feb. 19, 2003: Hear a Talk of the Nation discussion on Moseley Braun and other Democrats running for president.

more Feb. 7, 2003: Listen to a Morning Edition report on presidential candidates competing for the black vote in 2004.

more More Morning Edition interviews with the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates

Web Resources

  • Carol Moseley-Braun's 2004 presidential campaign Web site.