Friday, December 2, 2011

State Sen. Nina Turner Announces Run For Congress, Some Black Leaders Say Please Don't Run Against Qualified Black Incumbent U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge

Updated Friday, December 2, 2011

Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner (D-25)

U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH)

Ohio State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10)

Cleveland Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson

Cleveland Attorney and Local NAACP President George Forbes

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By Kathy Wray Coleman, Editor

State Sen. Nina Turner (D-25) , a Cleveland Democrat, sent shock waves through Cleveland's political rank and file this week when she filed petitions to take on U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-11) in next year's Democratic Primary election, a decision that has rocked Cleveland's Old Black Political Guard and has upset Black leaders with the prospective that the vote could be split by the two prominent Black women and a White could slide in.

"When minorities run against each other as was the case in Memphis, TN., you can end up with a majority representing a majority minority district historically led by a minority," said state Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10), a Cleveland Democrat and former city councilman who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009. "When then U.S. Rep. Harold Ford gave up the only Black congressional seat in Tennessee to run for a senate seat that he lost Blacks lost that seat and have not regained it."

Since the predominantly Black 11th Congressional District is overwhelmingly Democratic the chances of a Republican beating the winner of the Democratic primary are slim to none and so are the chances of anybody beating Fudge in her own district, even if it is remapped as planned to extend through Summit County to pick up some 20,000 people in a pocket in a solid Black section of Akron, the hometown of basketball icon Lebron James which has a Black population of about 31 percent and is largely White with roughly 200,000 people.

A Warrensville Hts. Democrat whose district now includes the east side of Cleveland and parts of its eastern suburbs in Cuyahoga County including Beachwood, Euclid, Cleveland Hts and Shaker Hts, Fudge was elected to Congress in 2008 and swept through the election in 2010 for another two-year term with 83 percent of the vote. She stepped into the seat in 2008 with the appointment by the executive committee of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party upon the untimely death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the second Black and first Black woman to be elected to congress from Ohio.

A former chief of staff to Tubbs Jones, licensed attorney, former national president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and mayor of the city of Warrensville Hts. prior to joining congress, the scholarly Fudge said with confidence that she will let voters decide.

"The congresswoman has said repeatedly that no matter where they put her she will run on her record," said Belinda Prinz, Communications Director for Fudge, in referencing Fudges' position on how she would respond if she drew a challenger like Turner for the Democratic primary in conjunction with a once-in-a-decade redistricting of Ohio's congressional map that through population growth decline requires the reduction from 18 to 16 congressional districts, 13 currently held by Republicans and 5 by Democrats. And that is if the re mapping process ever sticks as the Ohio Democratic Party, led by its chairman Chris Redfern, expects to gather necessary signatures for a 2012 ballot referendum for voters to either accept or reject House Bill 319, a bill that the Republican controlled state legislature passed last month. It hands 12 of the re-mapped 16 congressional districts for the Republicans to be favored as subsequently winning elections and four for the Democrats, with a judge deciding if voters say no to the bill.

Turner is a protege of former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White who won the council seat in 2005 in Lee-Harvard's Ward 1 in a close race against Tonya Jones, an attorney and the wife of former Ward 1 Councilman Joseph Jones. A former educational liaison for White and prior Cleveland schools administrator who moonlights as a history teacher at Cuyahoga County Community College, she won a four-year term to the state senate in 2010 after an appointment by the senate's minority caucus in 2008.

Without a doubt, Black leaders are approaching the controversy between the two strong Black women with a degree of caution, though some say that Turner is overly ambitious, whatever that means.

"Many of us would like to run for congress but its just not right to run against a prominent and qualified African-American incumbent," said Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully against Tubbs Jones via an open seat upon the retirement of U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, Ohio's first Black congressman who led what was once the 21st Congressional District for nearly three decades. A senior spokesperson and attorney for the law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey in its Wash. D.C. offices, Stokes handed the baton to Tubbs Jones with his blessings.

"I totally support the reelection of Marcia Fudge who is doing a good job and I will do all I can to help get her reelected," said Johnson, who carries the sentiment of practically all of greater Cleveland's prominent elected Black officials, though eyes are on Ward 1 Councilman Terrell Pruitt . He was appointed by City Council to replace Turner when she went on the become senator and then beat Tonya Jones to hold on to the seat, which is up for reelection next year like the other 18 city council seats.

But Turner said that she has a right to run and will do so. She said that while she supports the 11th Congressional District remaining majority minority as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and calls for more majority minority districts in the redistricting process, Blacks can sometimes turnout to be your own worst enemy.

"Just because somebody is Black does not mean that he or she represents the interests of the Black community," said Turner in reference to Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, whom Democrats say got in bed with the Republicans to craft the 12-to-4 Republican-to Democrat redistricted map.

That map is folded into HB 319 that is a state law as of Sept but that is stalled because it is headed next year to the ballot box for a determination by voters to either endorse or oppose it, if state Democrats secure the necessary signatures.

Turner says that if HB 319 holds, though unlikely, and Republicans get to keep the redrawn 12 congressional winnable seats and the Democrats are relegated to only four, it will have long term consequences and could hurt President Obama's reelection and his standing in Ohio since congressional members influence elections in pivotal states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

And some other Black state legislators, speaking on condition of anonymity, say that Forbes should not try anymore to con Black state legislators that are now shunning him into naively helping Republicans with HB 319's 12-to-4 Republican over Democrat advantage under the guise of saving the 11 Congressional District as majority minority when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires it remain majority minority anyway.

Turner stopped short of outright accusing Forbes of sleeping with the enemy over the congressional re-mapping process.

"What is important to remember is that the Democratic Party is the party of President Barack Obama," said Turner. "We need to ensure that the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus is not used to undermine him and the policies that he promotes to help working and middle class people."

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes it unconstitutional to redraw a majority minority district to a majority non-minority district through gerrymandering to the detriment of the impacted minority group.

The 11th Congressional District was 56 percent Black and 39 percent White in 2000, according to a census report. A 2010 census has it as still majority minority but possibly 48 percent Black as a voting age population, though that figure is likely higher since not all Blacks were counted in the census because some did not turn in the assessment form.

The state of Ohio is equally as Republican as it is Democrat, voting data show, and no Republican has won the White House without first winning Ohio, with the late President John F. Kennedy the last Democrat to lose Ohio and go on to win the presidency in 1960.

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