Son’s woes could hurt mother’s chances
DETROIT | Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick beamed as her son and rising political star, Kwame, vowed during his first ceremonial oath of office to faithfully serve the citizens of Detroit as their mayor. She called the Jan. 4, 2002, event the highlight of her life.
“In my mind, he’s still my little boy and always will be,” she said then.
Now her little boy is saddled with big problems that could make the seven-term congresswoman and House Appropriations Committee member vulnerable in the Aug. 3 Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.
Already jailed for violating probation, Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted last week on federal fraud and tax charges, accused of turning a charity into a personal slush fund. The 40-year-old former mayor has been in state prison since May for violating probation in a criminal case tied to sexually explicit text messages and an affair with a top aide.
Mrs. Cheeks Kilpatrick’s frustration was evident hours after the latest blow landed on Wednesday.
“I am devastated,” she said. “As a mother, I hope for the best for my son and will always be there for him. Beyond that, I have no further comment.”
Mrs. Cheeks Kilpatrick faced a strong primary challenge two years ago after racy text messages revealed her son’s marital infidelities and led to perjury and misconduct charges. She won with 39 percent of the vote - just 1,700 votes ahead of her main challenger, former state Rep. Mary Waters.
It could be tight again this year.
Still, State Sen. Hansen Clarke - considered Mrs. Cheeks Kilpatrick’s strongest competition this year - has said the son’s legal problems won’t be made an issue in the campaign against his mother. Even Mr. Ballenger noted her multiple advantages.
“She’s still the incumbent congresswoman,” Mr. Ballenger said. “She still has a huge financial advantage, and can always use the defense ‘I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m going to stand on my 14 years.’”
Campaign finance records show that as of March 31, Mrs. Cheeks Kilpatrick’s campaign had nearly $320,000 on hand from about 150 donors. Mr. Clarke had just more than $71,000 from about three dozen donors.
Attorney Sharon McPhail, a former Detroit general counsel under Kwame Kilpatrick, gave $500 to the congresswoman’s campaign in 2009.
“Not because of Kwame,” said Ms. McPhail, who noted Mrs. Cheeks Kilpatrick garnered more than $650,000 in federal funds for Detroit’s Workforce Development program. Mrs. Cheeks Kilpatrick has said she has helped bring a half-billion dollars to the state and district overall.
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