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Politics Mondays: Mel Watt Eyes 7th Term and Congressional Black Caucus' Top Spot by Jim Morrill


Charlotte Democrat Mel Watt not only hopes to win a seventh term, but to take a new job if he does.

Watt wants to be the next chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose membership includes Congress' 39 African American members.

He has said the national profile could help his district, but comes with a cost.

"That's what I've had to come to grips with: it's a nationwide job," he told the Observer in May. "And to the extent that it takes time away from my congressional district, (constituents) have to understand that."

Watt, first elected in 1992, is the only congressman the 12th District has ever had. For years the district made more headlines than its representative.

Its serpentine boundaries, which now run from Charlotte to Greensboro, have changed repeatedly because of court challenges. It was the subject of four cases ultimately considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Almanac of American Politics calls it "the most litigated and infamous district in the country during the 1990s."

In 12 years Watt has compiled a liberal voting record. Groups such as Americans for Democratic Action consistently give him very high ratings. Groups such as the American Conservative Union have given him ratings of zero.

Watt has voted against some crime bills because they included provisions for a death penalty. He's voted for bills backed by abortion rights groups. This year he voted to increase penalties on broadcasters who air indecency.

His relatively safe district -- he has never won less than 56 percent of the vote -- allows him to take positions that put him in the minority of even his own party.

In 2001, for example, he was one of 66 members to vote against the USA Patriot Act. Last spring he was among 93 who voted against a resolution saying the U.S. and the world are safer since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In both cases a majority of Democrats voted for the measures.

Mel Watt

Party: Democrat

Age: 58

Address: P.O. Box 36831, Charlotte

Occupation: Attorney

Elected offices: U.S. House, 1993-present.

Family: Married, two children

Education: Bachelor's degree, UNC Chapel Hill, 1967; law degree, Yale University, 1970

Telephone: (704) 344-9950

Internet or e-mail: nc12.public@ mail.house.gov

Jim Morrill is a staff writer for The Charlotte Observer. He can be reached via e-mail at: jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com


Note: This article first appeared in The Charlotte Observer


Monday, August 2, 2004

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