- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2000

Political newcomer Jennifer Carroll beat her opponent, Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida, in several recent straw polls and is now locked in one of the top targeted races in the nation for Republicans to steal a Democratic seat.
Mrs. Carroll soundly defeated Miss Brown, a Democrat, in four straw polls. In addition, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said its internal polling shows Mrs. Carroll, running for the 3rd District in Jacksonville, can win the seat.
"We have come to the conclusion [Miss Brown] will be the next Dan Rostenkowski," said committee spokesman Jim Wilkinson, referring to the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who was defeated in 1994 in the face of a 17-count federal indictment.
Miss Brown is not facing federal indictments, but the House Ethics Committee is investigating her relationship with African businessman Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to bribing a U.S. Customs Service agent.
Miss Brown lobbied on behalf of Mr. Sissoko, who later gave the congresswoman's daughter a $50,000 automobile.
Miss Brown has declined to be interviewed for this series.
"We believe that because of her ethics problems and the strength of our candidate," Mrs. Carroll will win, Mr. Wilkinson said.
He would not release the committee's polling, but said the numbers show character and truth in government is what matters most to voters this year.
"This race has moved up to the top of our radar screen in the last couple of weeks," Mr. Wilkinson said.
The four polls, sponsored by local chambers of commerce, indicate Mrs. Carroll has a strong lead heading into the November election.
She won 196-to-69 in Apopka; 283-to-78 in Seminole County; 344-to-193 in Winter Park, and 315-to-108 in west Orange County. The straw polls comprised both Democratic and Republican voters.
Black voters make up 40 percent of the congressional district, which encompasses Jacksonville and Orlando. Both the incumbent and her challenger are black.
Mrs. Carroll is a retired naval officer. Miss Brown, a Jacksonville native, serves on the House Transportation and Veterans Affairs committees both important committees for her district.
Democrats maintain Miss Brown is well liked despite the controversy, and that she has been successful in her eight years as their representative in Washington.
One Jacksonville Democratic activist said Mrs. Carroll is "bright, smart, articulate and a good candidate," but predicted Miss Brown is "going to wipe her off the earth."
Mrs. Carroll, however, says she is pulling in support from Democratic and independent voters, as well as her conservative Republican base.
"I was at a forum a few nights ago with 200 folks, about seven of them were Republicans, and I received a great response," Mrs. Carroll said. "Lots of people came up afterwards and said they did not think a black Republican could represent them, but that I changed their mind tonight."
She acknowledged it is challenging to convince black Democrats to support her because she is a Republican, even though the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted, she said.
When Vice President Al Gore selected running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman for the Democratic ticket, "he did not even humor the black population by considering a black person for vice president," she said.
Popular black Democrat politicians, such as Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Jesse Jackson, she said, should have been considered.
"At least in the Republican Party their one black person, Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., is in a leadership position," she said of the House Republican Conference chairman from Oklahoma.
"Don't be a hypocrite, don't tell people one thing and then do something else," she said of the Democratic Party.
Miss Brown has also criticized Mrs. Carroll for her party affiliation. When the Florida Times-Union ran a story about Mr. Watts holding an Orlando fund-raiser for Mrs. Carroll in June, Miss Brown responded by saying "black Republicans are a freak of nature."
"I'm not going to get into name calling," Mrs. Carroll said. "But now when I met people, they say 'You're not a freak, I like you,' " she said.

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