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Who Will Be The Next Chair Of The Congressional Black Caucus?


Today the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will gather together and hold a secret ballot to select their next chairperson. The winner will replace Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC.), the outgoing chairman whose two-year term is ending. Speculation as to who will fill the position focuses around two members of the Caucus who are the leading contenders to fill the position: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Ms) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tx).

Rep. Johnson and Rep. Thompson both promise to take the CBC in different directions - a pure reflection of their legislative priorities.

Cedric Mobley, spokesman for Rep. Johnson, told BlackElectorate.com that Rep. Johnson would like to lead the Congressional Black Caucus in a manner that is consistent with her core principles and legislative agenda. Mr. Mobley indicates that there are five areas that Rep. Johnson would like to address as CBC chair.

"Rep. Johnson has her finger on the pulse of the African-American community and her agenda reflects that", Mr Mobley stated.

First, Mr. Mobley indicates that Rep. Johnson would focus her attention on technology. "Rep. Johnson wants for all minorities to have access to computers in their home; she wants to improve the ratio of computers to students in public schools; and she wants to help Black and minority-owned business get more involved in global commerce" he explained.

Second, " Because Rep. Johnson is a nurse, healthcare will be an important priority", Mr. Mobley added.

The third priority for Rep. Johnson will be to address voting rights issues, especially in light of the recent controversy in this year's presidential election.

Fourth on the agenda will be gaining full representation for the District Of Columbia in both houses of the United States Congress.

"If D.C. had 2 senators, Democrats would have a majority in the Senate right now. To deny D.C. full representation is an attempt to disenfranchise voters." Mobley explained.

Rep. Johnson's fifth legislative priority will be "to expand the access to capital in an effort to generate wealth -building" according to Mr. Mobley.

Rep. Bennie Thompson will also look to lead the Congressional Black Caucus in a manner that is consistent with his leadership style and legislative priorities. Rep. Thompson's legislative director, Walter Vinson, explained to Black Electorate.com that Rep. Thompson hopes to build bridges between the Congressional Black Caucus and others, in various spheres, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Mr. Vinson stated that one of Rep. Thompson's top priorities would be to increase support for the "New Markets Initiative" - a community and economic development program that seeks to increase economic development in distressed inner cities, rural areas and Native American reservations.

"Rep. Thompson would like to encourage members of the CBC to work more closely with CEOs of companies and corporations for the expressed purpose of generating economic development. He wants to break down the barriers that have existed between the private sector and the legislators that represent the communities that need economic expansion the most," Mr. Vinson offered.

Mr. Vinson also made clear that Rep. Thompson as CBC chair would continue his efforts to end the Cuban embargo and to increase ties between Blacks and the Cuban government and people wherever appropriate.

[Earlier this year, Rep. Thompson revealed, in an exclusive interview with BlackElectorate.com that he was considering an offer from Cuban leader Fidel Castro to train medical students from his district in Cuba for free. Rep. Thompson's district has a severe shortage of doctors and nurses]

"Rep. Thompson looks for the needle in the haystack when it comes to doing anything he can to help his constituents and he would like to spread that philosophy to all of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The Caucus can benefit from Rep. Thompson's unique perspective". Mr. Vinson stated.

According to most observers Rep. Johnson is the favorite to win the election, which requires 20 votes for victory. Mr. Mobley confidently asserts, "She has a lot more than the necessary 20 votes and should win with a nice majority".

Rep. Johnson's supporters boast of the endorsements that she has received from Rep. Charles Rangel of New York (D-NY), Rep. Chakah Fatah (D-Pa) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)

Mr. Vinson indicates that Rep. Thompson is simply looking forward to the election and not in predicting any outcomes or vote totals. "No matter what the results are the CBC will have a fine chair. This is a secret ballot and we haven't gotten into any private polling among any of the members. If Rep. Thompson loses he will throw his full support behind Congresswoman Johnson."

Many believe that in recent days several supporters of Congresswoman Johnson may have switched their support for Rep. Thompson and sources indicate that the secret ballot makes it easier for individuals who have pledged support for either candidate to cast a vote for the other.

The vote is expected to take place late Tuesday afternoon.


Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, December 5, 2000

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