- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney early yesterday blamed Republican voters in her speech conceding defeat in the Georgia Democratic primary.

"We saw massive Republican crossover into the Democratic primary, and it looks like the Republicans wanted to beat me more than the Democrats wanted to keep me," Mrs. McKinney told her supporters after conceding defeat.

"She is right for the first time in a while," said Phil Kent, president of Southeastern Legal Foundation, which has been a longtime critic of the five-term incumbent congresswoman. "It wasn't even a Jewish-Palestinian thing. It was the white Republicans who had the say-so here me included."

Republicans in Georgia's 4th District swarmed the polls to cross over and oust Mrs. McKinney in favor of a more centrist Democrat, former state judge Denise Majette. The challenger won 58 percent to 42 percent.

It was thought that Mrs. McKinney's outspoken pro-Palestinian and pro-Muslim rhetoric would be her demise, as Jewish money both national and local flowed into the Majette campaign. Meanwhile, Arab donors were solicited by the McKinney campaign with some success, although Mrs. Majette outraised her opponent by roughly $500,000.

But it was the ire of the Republicans that sent Mrs. McKinney packing. Georgia has an open primary that allows people to vote for either party.

At some polling areas in the district, Republican voting booths sat unused for up to an hour while voters stood in line at the Democratic booths.

"I look at our data and it tells me the story," said Dale Ranta, chairman of the DeKalb County Republican Party. "It looks like 95 percent of the total vote was Democrat in a county that is 60-40 Democrat."

Mr. Ranta said some DeKalb Republicans even volunteered for Mrs. Majette and attended her victory celebration Tuesday night.

"There were a lot of people who considered [Mrs. McKinney] just plain unrepresentative of this district," said Mr. Ranta, who cast his ballot in the Republican primary. "For the people who crossed over, it was worthwhile. She stirs so much emotion."

The Republican crossover vote may have even helped jeopardize the career of Mrs. McKinney's father, veteran state Rep. Billy McKinney, who faces a Sept. 10 runoff election after receiving 48 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary.

Before the election, Mr. McKinney said the effort against his daughter was a Jewish plot. "Jews bought everybody. That's J-E-W-S," he said.

Mrs. Majette had not counted on Republican votes, said her campaign manager Roland Washington.

"It was just an anti-McKinney sentiment that transcended party lines," Mr. Washington said. "It was never our strategy to get that Republican vote."

Mrs. McKinney angered Republicans, among others, when she said President Bush may have ignored warnings about September 11 and benefited financially from the war on terrorism.

Ultimately, "this was a vote that was anti-McKinney rather than pro-Majette," said Charles Bullock III, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. "She had finally turned people off enough to vote against her."

Mrs. McKinney's pro-Palestinian views may also have contributed to her defeat, although there were few Jewish voters in her district.

"She made herself the poster child for anti-Israeli sentiment," said one member of a Jewish political action committee in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "She tried to inflame this idea that Jews are out to get blacks even though her opponent was black."

But McKinney supporter Joshua Ruebner, executive director of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, said the Georgia Democrat spoke only of Middle East peace and warned of political repercussions.

"This is a dangerous dynamic," he said. "Jews are the ones who started picking off African-American politicians because of their views on the Middle East, and that was undue meddling. It is doing irreparable harm to relations with African-Americans."

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