Black gains expected Nov. 4. Top offices elusive but US House, local prospects good
Political experts predict the election of four new black congressmen Nov. 4, increasing the number of blacks in the House of Representatives to 25. And they say that there will be a general increase in the number of black state and local elected officals across the United States, although at this time neither of the two blacks running for governor this fall -- Democrat Tom Bradley in California and Republican William Lucas in Michigan -- is favored to win.
Bearing on the effectiveness of the black vote and the success of black candidates this fall, the experts say, are an increasing willingness among black voters to spurn familiar names and base their vote on other factors, and the fact that white voters are showing strength in deciding who is elected in areas where they are in the minority.
The annual fall weekend here of the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month was really a summit meeting of black US political leaders, along with business, civil rights, and community activists. The caucus set two immediate goals:
To add at least four new black congressmen to the present 21 (all Democrats) in the House. One of the new black members could be a Republican.
To help Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York get elected in January as Democratic whip of the House of Representatives. The post is third in rank to the speaker of the house and the majority leader.
The nomination of John Lewis for the US House over fellow black civil rights activist Julian Bond in Georgia's Fifth District was seen as a clear example of the tendency of blacks to look beyond the ``big name,'' as well as the ability of white minorities to tip the balance in close contests. The minority white voters in Atlanta's Democratic primary preferred Mr. Lewis in this district, once represented by Mayor Andrew Young of Atlanta.
Another key factor in the power of the black vote is that blacks are keeping a more watchful eye on election contests between white candidates.
``Blacks must pay particular attention to the senatorial elections in 1986,'' says Eddie N. Williams, president of the Joint Center for Political Studies, a black think tank in Washington. He notes that US senators approve presidential appointees such as ambassadors and federal judges and that they have a strong influence on foreign policy, as evidenced in the recent voting of sanctions against South Africa.
``More blacks should seek office,'' he adds. ``Although the number of black elected officials increases every year, they hold only 1.5 percent of the elective offices in the country.''
Beneath the glitter of a $300-a-plate banquet, fashion shows, breakfasts, receptions, and celebrity fund-raisers for the benefit of the Congressional Black Caucus Fund, the thousands of black people who came to Washington for the caucus weekend sent out a three-pronged message: They will hold black elected officials more accountable for their performance in office; they are willing to elect new people, not just familiar black activists, to office; they are willing to look at the Republican Party; and they are ready to challenge the Democratic Party's commitment to their interests.
Seven blacks are running for the House, two of them against each other. Democrat Lewis in Atlanta is opposed by Republican Portia Scott, a member of a prominent black family of traditional Republicans. Unopposed for the GOP nomination, Ms. Scott is not considered a serious threat Lewis, an Atlanta city councilor.
The other black congressional candidates are: the Rev. Floyd Flake, a Democrat running in New York's Sixth District (Queens); Democrat Faye Williams, a former staff member of the US House District Committee, seeking to replace retiring Rep. Cathy Long (D) in central Louisiana's Eighth District; Democratic attorney Mike Espy of Yazoo City, in Mississippi's Second District; state Sen. Robert Scott (D) in Virginia's First District; and Ronald M. Crutcher of Dayton, in Ohio's Third District.
In the Mississippi contest, Mr. Espy is rated a good prospect to upset white Rep. Webb Franklin in the 58 percent black district. In Virginia, Mr. Scott is challenging US Rep. Herb Bateman, who is favored to win.
In the Louisiana race, Ms. Williams faces Clyde Holloway, a Republican businessman who lost twice, in 1982 and '84, to Mrs. Long. The district is 38 percent black and 88 percent Democratic, but Holloway backers expect white Democratic voters to defect to Mr. Holloway. In Ohio, Mr. Crutcher's opponent is US Rep. Tony Hall, a conservative Democrat who generally supports President Reagan's policies and is a strong campaigner among blacks in a district that is 29 percent black.
Mr. Flake is expected to win in Queens.