- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

LANSING, Mich. (AP) | After his preacher problems, Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t need another association with a charismatic, radioactive public figure. Still, Kwame Kilpatrick, the tarnished mayor of Detroit, is a hard man to avoid completely.

That places the Democratic presidential candidate in a bit of a dilemma when he campaigns in Michigan this week and later in the race.

Mr. Obama meets voters today in Troy, a Detroit suburb, just when his party needs to ease wounds from its internal fight over the renegade Michigan primary.

The party’s rules committee decided Saturday to seat the state’s delegates at the convention but hold each to half a vote. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign cried foul.

Mr. Obama could use the mayor’s enthusiastic support in Detroit, a city of 900,000 where blacks make up more than 80 percent of the city’s residents and nearly always vote Democratic.

Mr. Kilpatrick’s get-out-the-vote operation in Detroit could be key in a hotly competitive state that doesn’t know the Illinois senator that well, thanks to an agreement by the Democratic candidates not to campaign for the primary and his decision to remove his name from the ballot.

Yet Mr. Obama has to fear angering thousands of voters who may see Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona as a better presidential choice than someone who cozies up to an elected official charged with lying under oath about an affair and his role in the firing of a top police official.

If Mr. Obama ends up giving him the cold shoulder, Mr. Kilpatrick seems inclined to excuse his absence.

“He’s running a very smart campaign, and his campaign is not to be walking, holding hands, singing ‘Kumbaya’ with Kwame Kilpatrick,” the mayor said, speaking of himself in the third person. “I’ll be making sure that he gets the turnout in Detroit to help him win Michigan.”

Mr. Kilpatrick urged Mr. Obama to concentrate on swing counties surrounding Detroit and traditionally Republican areas such as Kent County in the west, “where he really needs people to understand who he is, what he’s about, what’s his platform and how he gets to the presidency and what he will do for Michigan.”

Although the Detroit City Council has asked Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm to remove Mr. Kilpatrick from office, he could remain mayor through the rest of this campaign season. Mr. Kilpatrick insists that he has done nothing wrong and has talked of running for re-election next year.

The mayor faces charges of perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct related to explicit text messages sent to a former aide.

Rallies have been held for him and money has been flowing into his legal defense fund. A prominent Detroit businessman, Peter Karmanos, recently said the mayor should stay “because he’s the best we have.”

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