- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DETROIT | U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, facing the toughest political battle of her career, is bringing some big congressional guns into her Michigan district as the six-term lawmaker campaigns for re-election in a much-watched Democratic primary race that some see as tightening.

Last Tuesday, Rep. Charles Rangel, New York Democrat, who heads the House Ways and Means Committee, spoke passionately about Mrs. Kilpatrick at a campaign event with a Baptist ministers group, saying Mrs. Kilpatrick carries a big stick in Washington as a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Rangel also suggested that Detroit would be in a good position with a possible Barack Obama administration by having Mrs. Kilpatrick back in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Mrs. Kilpatrick on Friday at campaign stops in Grosse Pointe and Wyandotte, while Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, is expected in Detroit two days before the Democratic congressional primary on Aug. 5.

Though Mrs. Kilpatrick has soared to re-election in previous races, first running for Congess in 1996 after a career in the Michigan Legislature, her most recent bid for office has been strained by the scandal over her son, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is facing felony charges, including perjury, in a police whistleblower settlement that has polarized the economically beleaguered city.

The congresswoman´s two opponents, state Sen. Martha Scott and former state Rep. Mary Waters, have both connected her to her son´s political problems. A recent ad titled “Yaw´s Boy,” which appeared on YouTube, garnered national attention with footage of Mrs. Kilpatrick using fiery language supporting her son while a list of his multiple felony charges scrolled across the screen.

Mrs. Waters chastised Mrs. Kilpatrick for “injecting herself” into the mayor´s ongoing woes, telling viewers during a debate televised July 20 on Detroit station WDIV-TV that “she stood up and said, ‘no matter what my son is doing to this entire region, which destroys this entire region, you all continue to elect him.’”

“You´re his mamma, I understand all of that, but the people in the 13th Congressional District are truly concerned about your public persona,” Mrs. Waters continued.

Mrs. Kilpatrick, who previously has acknowledged that the mayoral scandal has hurt her campaign bid, later responded that she loved her son and the judicial process would take care of his future.

“I believe he´ll be fine,” she said, noting that she had a 30-year track record in politics of bringing in money to help those in her diverse district, which includes affluent areas as well as those that are struggling under blight and poverty.

“You haven´t done anything; you haven´t,” Mrs. Waters shot back.

Mrs. Kilpatrick, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, did not take the attack lightly: “Girl, please. You can´t even carry my bra,” she said, raising eyebrows at what some considered an undignified response. The debate was taped on July 18 and aired July 20.

The rough emotions and Mrs. Kilpatrick´s campaign strategy to bring in her high-powered Washington colleagues signal that she likely knows the race is not easy and she is working hard to shore up her support, said Detroit political consultant Eric Foster of the Urban Consulting Group.

“On paper, this race should be an easy victory. The congresswoman has a tremendous financial advantage, 12 years in Congress, tremendous name identification, and she has built up a relatively good track record in Washington,” Mr. Foster said. “However, the challenges that the mayor, her son, is facing have reared themselves into this campaign and have attached themselves to her name.

“Under normal circumstances, you would not engage your underfunded opponents. You would not give them a platform to compare themselves to you, to catch you in any negative moment or hit you with significant blows that could damage your credibility. Under normal circumstances, there would never be a debate, but her polling and tracking must be telling her that this race is a lot closer than it should be and she should get out there and show the contrast between her and her opponents. For her to be bringing these people in says she is fearing a very tough race and she needs those outside voices to further vouch for her credibility, her standing in D.C. and her ability to get the job done.”

Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle, an outspoken opponent of the mayor, says he thinks the race has “tightened up” but adds that even with the ongoing sniping and controversy, Mrs. Kilpatrick as an incumbent still has the advantage. Still, he said, the scandal is making her work for it.

“Normally, as an incumbent, you would just be chilling,” but now Mrs. Kilpatrick is facing “a hellacious time” as the primary clock ticks,” he said.

“Kilpatrick has infinitely more money than her opponents, but this is now a situation where the dollars will not count like they used to,” he said. “The mayor and the congresswoman are inextricably linked by politics as well as birth.”

Early last week, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that she was amending the initial criminal complaint against the mayor to include his involvement with other women. The initial complaint accuses him of lying under oath about his relationship with his former chief of staff Christine Beatty, who also is facing criminal charges, but the new complaint changes its wording to suggest that Miss Beatty was not the only person with whom the mayor was involved. The prosecutor´s investigation has included the review of thousands of text messages sent by the mayor on a city-issued pager.

The mayor, who is married and a father of three, has apologized publicly to his wife and the city. His wife, according to published accounts, is now living in Florida with their children. Mr. Kilpatrick, a lawyer, responded to Miss Worthy´s announcement of her amended complaint that she was on the verge of prosecutorial misconduct and called her actions a “personal vendetta” that would “poison the jury pool” in his upcoming trial.

“Her hope is that the racism of this region will convict me instead of the issues of law and justice,” he said at a news conference. His legal team later released a statement calling the prosecutor´s statements “wild accusations” and her legal actions “clear signs of desperation.”

The mayor later clarified his statements to say that he doesn´t think the area is racist.

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