Primary Primer: Son’s Sins Imperil Mom

Posted August 1, 2008 at 5:19pm

In the toughest race of her life, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) might make it across the finish line in Tuesday’s Democratic primary because she has split opposition.

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus has come under fire for staunchly supporting her son, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D), who has been indicted on eight counts after a whistle-blower trial. The result was two primary challengers: state Sen. Martha Scott (D) and former state Rep. Mary Waters (D).

An EPIC-MRA poll of 400 likely voters published last week in the Detroit News predicted a close contest, with Kilpatrick leading Waters 33 percent to 29 percent, with Scott at 24 percent. Waters and Scott, to a lesser degree, have criticized Kilpatrick for supporting her son so vocally.

But despite what appears to be tight race from the poll, Kilpatrick campaign manager Bill McConico was confident about winning. “We’re going to get over 50 percent, period,” he said.

McConico said the News poll was not consistent with Kilpatrick’s internal tracking polls, which recently have shown the Congresswoman with a larger lead because of her increased pre-primary campaigning.

In the weeks leading up to primary, Kilpatrick has had visits from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and other House leaders. Pelosi also recorded robocalls for Kilpatrick, McConico said.

It’s a change from her past re-election campaigns, in which Kilpatrick only faced token opposition. This cycle, for example, she has raised $799,100 through July 16, compared with $460,400 for the entire 2006 cycle.

For the same time period, Waters’ campaign was $7,900 in debt and Scott’s financial report was not available.

“The only reason she has a race this time has nothing to do with her job performance,” McConico said. “They’re using the troubles of the mayor as reason to run against the Congresswoman.”

Kilpatrick’s toughest Congressional election was her first, when she defeated then-Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins (D) in a seven-way primary. Collins was embroiled in scandals of her own at the time, including hosting a fundraiser at a strip club.

Michigan pollster Ed Sarpolus said it appears Kilpatrick is on her guard and not falling into the same trap as her predecessor.

“She has been very open and honest about the issues in the race. She’s not taking it lightly,” Sarpolus said. “She remembers how she beat Barbara-Rose Collins, and she knows the same thing could be done to her.”

Sarpolus said that because of her split opposition, Kilpatrick will likely eke out a win.

“Her race is being impacted by her son’s problems as mayor and the only reason she’ll probably squeeze though is because she’ll have two opponents,” he added.