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“The Republicans Are Trying to Take Over The Democratic Primary”: Congressmember Cynthia McKinney on The Political Fight of Her Life

StoryAugust 04, 2006
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Cynthia McKinney–Georgia’s first African American Congresswoman–has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration. On Tuesday, she faces a Democratic primary run-off vote against former Dekalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson. She joins us from Georgia. [includes rush transcript]

On Tuesday, voters go to the polls in two closely watched elections. In Connecticut, incumbent Senator Joseph Lieberman is facing a serious challenge from anti-war candidate Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary. The latest polls show Lamont beating Lieberman. And in Georgia, Representative Cynthia McKinney is in a run-off election with former Dekalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson. Last month, the six term Congresswoman was forced into a run-off with Johnson after none of the three contestants in the Democratic primary received more than 50 % of the vote.

McKinney–who is Georgia’s first African American Congresswoman–is one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration. She was one of the earliest opponents of the Iraq invasion, has continually spoken out against U.S policy in the Middle East, and was one of the most visible politicians to investigate the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

In 2002, McKinney lost her seat to Democratic challenger Denise Majette. But two years later Mckinney won back her seat–defeating five opponents in the 2004 Democratic primary–and beating her Republican challenger that November. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney join us now on the phone — We invited her opponent Hank Johnson to join us but he never responded to our request.

  • Cynthia McKinney. Congressional Representative, Georgia

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Cynthia McKinney joins us now on the telephone from Georgia. We invited her opponent, Hank Johnson, to join us, as well, but he never responded to our repeated requests. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congressmember McKinney.

REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, thank you very much for having me on, Amy, and I appreciate the interest and the support of your listening audience. We are engaged down here in quite a fierce battle, because the Republicans once again have chosen to insert themselves into the business of the Democratic primary. It’s particularly pernicious, because in Georgia, as we all saw and now we all know, that the Republican delegation was most vociferous in its antipathy toward the extension of the Voting Rights Act.

The double whammy that we have down here in Georgia is that we’ve got the open primary, which allows the Republicans to become involved in the Democratic primary, and then we also have second primary, which is the run-off stipulation, is the run-off statute. Now, most states [inaudible] have taken care of their open primary and their run-off statute. Either they have repealed them or they have amended them. But deep South, in the heart of the South, in the heart of what used to be the Confederacy — Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi — these are still battles that are being fought. In fact, right now, the state of Mississippi is in litigation against its open primary statute. And, of course, that is some unfinished business of the Voting Rights Act that we need to take care of here in Georgia, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Congressmember Cynthia McKinney. You had your first debate with your opponent. How do the polls stand now? Is this a real uphill battle for you once again?

REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, we’ve had to write three letters to the press from my attorney, because of libelous writings or libelous reporting or unfair stances that they’ve taken. And the latest one — we’ve caught yet another one — there’s a story that is in the press today about a McKinney having been indicted. The “McKinney” is spelled exactly the same way, and it’s being reported very widely, and if people only get a part of it, part of the story, they will hear the McKinney part and the indicted part, and they won’t know — there’s no statement in the report that this is not Cynthia McKinney or that this person whose last name is McKinney has no relationship to me. It’s a political campaign story of a McKinney having been indicted. So that’s the news now.

And then we had another situation to arise just today, where we were refused the opportunity to place ads — well, actually this happened yesterday — but we were refused to place ads on one station, and then we discovered that our opponent had placed ads on the station.

What happened this morning, that necessitated yet another letter from the attorney. What happened this morning was that I had an interview scheduled, and the interview was called off because the higher-ups at the radio station didn’t want me on if I couldn’t appear with my opponent.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember McKinney, I’m looking at a piece from The Hill, the Capitol newspaper in Washington, D.C. It says, “McKinney opponent rakes in pro-Israel cash.” That’s the headline. We’ve been talking a lot about the Middle East today. And the article says, “Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s primary run-off opponent has tapped into the pro-Israel fundraising network that helped her virtually unknown challenger Denise Majette topple McKinney and Artur Davis beat then-Rep. Earl Hilliard in Alabama in a pair of hotly contested 2002 primaries in black-majority districts. Hank Johnson collected at least $34,100 Tuesday from individuals and political action committees that supported Majette, Davis or both, including several pro-Israel PACs. Overall, Johnson reported receiving $63,100 on Tuesday. The contributions were recorded in a filing with the Federal Election Commission. […] “Seven pro-Israel PACs gave to Johnson on Tuesday: MOPAC in Michigan, Washington PAC in D.C., SUNPAC and National Action Committee PAC in Florida, CITYPAC in Chicago, Mid-Manhattan PAC in New York and Louisiana for American Security PAC. Five of the seven contributed to both Majette and Davis four years ago, according to FEC records. SUNPAC gave to Majette in 2002 and to Davis in 2004, while Mid-Manhattan PAC gave only to Davis in 2002.” Your response?

REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, we have a system. I have consistently supported campaign finance — real campaign finance reforms that included public financing, because, you know, our system today allows this kind of infusion of cash into the system. And so, that’s where we are.

AMY GOODMAN: And your stance right now on what’s happening in Lebanon, in Gaza, and also in Iraq?

REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, of course, I think that the United States should be an honest broker, and I’ve said that from the very beginning. In fact, I got in trouble with AIPAC early on in my career, when they sent me a pledge that I didn’t sign, and that pledge was a commitment to maintain the military superiority of Israel. And I thought that the United States needs to be an honest broker and not take sides and provide an opportunity for human rights to be first and foremost, not the possession of weapons of destruction, and death and destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: And where does the Democratic Party stand? I know when I spoke to you last, we were talking about the difference between Republicans who returned to Congress after they hadn’t been in office — you were out for two years, came back — and they maintain their seniority. The Democratic Party did not treat you the same way, though you had been in Congress for many years.

REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: The Democratic Party — the leadership of the Democratic Party in the Congress, in the House, did not treat me the same as the Republican colleagues were treated. Notwithstanding that, I’ve been able to deliver for my district. But in a campaign that is full of — flush with funds and practices the policy of deception, it is veritably impossible to adequately get one’s message out. We are trying the best we can, but we don’t have that infusion of [inaudible] coming in on our side that you just listed from The Hill.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember McKinney, we just have a few seconds, but why do you want to return to Congress? What do you think are the most important issues to work on right now?

REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, of course, we’re involved in a war that is illegal, immoral and unjust, and so we need to get our military health in order. We need to get our energy health in order. War is not an energy policy. And we need to get our fiscal health in order. We cannot continue to borrow $2.5 billion a day and think that the financial deck of cards won’t collapse. So we’ve got a lot of work to do on behalf of putting America back on the right track. And I just hope that I will be a part of the changing of the guard in Congress, as it were, because we’ve got to do something to get rid of the Republican majority, because they have been an abomination for the reputation of our country, the moral standing of our country, the financial standing of our country. And right now, they’re trying to control the voice —

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember McKinney, we’re going to have to leave it there. I thank you very much for joining us from Georgia. Her run-off primary is on Tuesday.

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