Cynthia McKinney, Round 4?
Ex-Congresswoman Won’t Run for President, Ponders House Race
Now that former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) has withdrawn her name from consideration as the Green Party’s long-shot presidential nominee, speculation is mounting that the woman who is known, among other things, as a comeback specialist, is setting herself up for another run at her old seat.
On Monday, after a speaking engagement at Howard University in Washington, D.C., McKinney didn’t rule out the possibility.
Asked about her plans for the 2008 cycle, McKinney responded, “you can wait until next year. … I’m not really talking about that right now.”
And when questioned about whether the time was ripe to reclaim the seat in Georgia’s 4th district that she has won and lost and won and lost again in recent cycles, McKinney would only reply, “I’ll let you do the speculating.”
It was a coy response from a woman who isn’t known as the shy type. McKinney made headlines in March 2006 after an altercation at a security checkpoint with a Capitol Police officer who did not immediately recognize her. In June 2006, a D.C. Superior Court grand jury declined to return an indictment in the alleged assault case but many political watchers attributed McKinney’s subsequent loss in the Democratic primary that summer to the incident.
Since her loss, McKinney has been a featured speaker at several Green Party events, has raised money for Green Party candidates and denounced the Democratic Party for not doing enough to oppose the Iraq War. After starting her AllThingsCynthiaMcKinney.com Web site in January, the former Congresswoman launched a new feature earlier this month to solicit feedback from the public “on your thoughts on the possibilities facing her in the 2008 electoral cycle.”
For his part, freshman Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who beat McKinney in the 2006 primary, said he’s operating under the assumption that he’ll be facing McKinney again come next year.
“I assume that she will be running again because it’s highly unlikely that a freshman such as myself would go unchallenged in their first re-election,” Johnson said. “I would assume I’ll be challenged by her.”
And several Georgia insiders said Johnson would be smart not to count out McKinney. In 2002 she lost a primary race to former Rep. Denise Majette after stirring up controversy when she charged that President Bush may have had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but didn’t act on it in order to boost defense stocks. During that race she also was criticized for taking money from donors who were associated with foundations being investigated by the FBI for terrorist ties. Her father also was criticized for making anti-Semitic remarks that year.
But McKinney, running what some described as a “stealth campaign” came back to win her old seat back in 2004 when Majette, after serving just one term, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate.
“You’ve got to look at her comeback in ’04,” one longtime Georgia Democratic campaign watcher said. “She laid low and she countered a lot of the problems she had, she didn’t say anything outrageous and she was up against four other people … and she won without a runoff.”
One national pollster agreed.
“I suppose it would be foolhardy to count Cynthia McKinney out,” the pollster said. “I don’t know if she has nine lives, but she certainly has had more political lives than most.”
But, the pollster added, “I think that those folks who are most passionately committed to her no longer number the plurality or majority that they once did. I also think Hank [Johnson] has been pretty well received in the 4th district.”
Johnson said the best thing he can do to prepare for a rematch with McKinney is to “do my job efficiently and effectively and to render good constituent services and take care of the needs back home so that’s what I’ve tried to do while remaining visible. … I think the people of the 4th district are craving stability in this office.”
A rematch between McKinney and Johnson would set up some particularly interesting endorsement scenarios.
For one, it would pit a current member of the Congressional Black Caucus against a former member of the CBC.
Keiana Barrett, director of communications for the CBC, acknowledged Monday that such a race would be a “sensitive” affair for caucus members.
“In this particular race the CBC collectively does not have any organized activities or efforts as it relates to former Rep. McKinney’s campaign,” Barrett said, who added that individual Members could spread around their own campaign money as they see fit.
Meanwhile one group Johnson would start out with firmly in his corner is the National Fraternal Order of Police, whose political action committee contributed to his campaign when he forced a surprise runoff against McKinney in 2006.
“From our standpoint [Johnson] has been a very solid Member of Congress and we’ve worked with him on a couple issues” such as law enforcement grants, said Jim Pasco, executive director of the national FOP. “I know of nothing that Hank Johnson as an incumbent has done that would make us inclined not to endorse him again. He’s done a good job.”
Referencing McKinney’s 2006 run-in with the Capitol Police officer, Pasco added “our position on Cynthia McKinney has not changed one iota because she’s shown no signs of a willingness to admit what she did and to take the kind of steps to repair the relationship with the law enforcement community which she damaged by her actions.”
As he goes about building his name recognition as a freshman lawmaker, Johnson said the incident with the Capitol Police officer does occasionally come up when he’s back home in Georgia.
“Some do [bring it up] in voicing how happy they are that I am now the Representative.” Johnson said. “But for the most part people have moved forward from that incident — they understand that new leadership is in place and they’ve given me a fair opportunity to prove my ability as a Congressman.”