Sunday, October 19, 2003

Haley Barbour, the GOP candidate hoping to unseat Missisippi's Democratic governor, Ronnie Musgrove, doesn't just play the race card when he's hanging out at shindigs organized by the Council of Conservative Citizens. As Nicholas Dawidoff notes in The New York Times Magazine:

Back in 1967, when William Winter, a Democrat, was running for governor, his campaign was smeared by handbills equating a Winter election with ''Negro domination.'' Recently, according to the Musgrove campaign, handbills have been mailed out that say ''Some of Ronnie Musgrove's important appointments'' and show photographs of his black appointees. Nobody has claimed responsibility, and the Barbour campaign says it knows nothing about the handbills and denies involvement in any divisive tactics....

Then there is the matter of the lieutenant governor's election. In Mississippi, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are obligated by the state Constitution to run separate campaigns and often have little politically in common except party affiliation. The incumbent, Amy Tuck, was elected as a Democrat but switched parties once in office. And when a black lawyer and legislator named Barbara Blackmon won the Democratic lieutenant governor's primary, Barbour introduced the novel notion of a ''Musgrove-Blackmon ticket'' into his speeches. He has since kept it up, warning his mostly all-white crowds that ''Blackmon did a great job getting out her supporters.'' By supporters, he means blacks. Blackmon, if elected, will become the first African-American to hold statewide office in Mississippi history. A laborer's daughter who grew up in inner-city Jackson, Blackmon graduated from college at 19 and subsequently earned three graduate degrees. Her presence on the ballot is expected to energize Mississippi's heavily Democratic black electorate. When she encountered Barbour after a labor meeting at which he made references to her, she told him that he wasn't running against her and requested that he desist. ''He told me I was right, and he wouldn't do it in the future,'' she says. That has turned out to be Barbour's first broken campaign promise.

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