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April 8, 2006
McKinney Losing Steam In Her District

Cynthia McKinney used to be a big hitter in DeKalb County, where Atlantans have sent her to Congress since 1992. In recent years, however, her increasingly erratic behavior and rhetoric has cooled the ardor of voters in one of Georgia's most populous counties; they even retired her for a cycle in 2002 after her claim that George Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks . They elected her again in 2004 when the woman who beat her in '02 ran for the Senate instead (and lost). Now the Los Angeles Times reports that DeKalb voters have once again begun to consider McKinney a liability:

The lawmaker has received little if any support from colleagues of either party, and a federal grand jury is mulling whether to bring criminal charges against her.

In McKinney's suburban Atlanta district, the altercation has created doubts about her fitness for office.

Khalil King, a businessman, said he wasn't sure he would vote for her again. "I just feel like she's overreacting," said King, who is black.

But to many Georgia Democrats, much more is at stake than McKinney's political future.

Support from moderate white voters is seen as crucial to the party's chances of winning upcoming statewide contests, and there is a fear that McKinney's conflict will cast a negative light on the Democratic Party.

Georgia Democrats need the support of moderate white voters in order to win statewide offices, and the McKinney reuption has strained their credibility with that target set. The Democrats find themselves stuck because of McKinney's behavior; no one will criticize her, and as long as they remain silent, moderate voters won't trust them. Governor Sonny Perdue challenged his two Democratic challengers running in the primaries to publicly scold McKinney for her assault on a police officer, and when neither of them would do so, he made it a point to equate them to McKinney's strange brand of anti-Semitic and conspiracy-theory politics.

The smart action for Georgia Democrats would be to throw their support to a more moderate candidate in the primaries. A DeKalb lawyer already in the primary race appears to fit the bill. Hank Johnson already holds county office; the Times doesn't bother with specifics, but Johnson is a county commissioner with an impressive bio, at least for a Democratic candidate. He's been a judge and a successful defense attorney, bragging about winning acquittals or hung juries (why would an attorney brag about a stalemate?) in significant cases.

Johnson certainly won't excite Republicans, but the GOP has no chance of winning this seat anyway. Replacing McKinney with Johnson would create a marked improvement regardless of party, as it is difficult to imagine anyone worse than McKinney. It might also allow Democrats in Georgia -- and in Congress -- an opportunity to recover a small measure of their credibility. Will DeKalb voters and their state party seize that opportunity and finally rid themselves of this serial embarrassment, or will they play it safe by protecting the incumbent at the risk of losing statewide races? I suspect that McKinney will wind up "retired" once again.

UPDATE: As Yoda once said, "There is another ..." Dignan wants to generate blogospheric support for his potential run against McKinney. Maybe Georgia voters should take note and grab this opportunity for a real impact on politics.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 8, 2006 7:26 AM

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