- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

A new, younger political leadership among blacks is emerging with a message that is less stridently Democratic and more willing to accept ideas that are considered Republican, according to a report issued by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
The study looks at the differences in attitudes between older black elected officials and a new breed of officeholders.
School vouchers, for instance, have found favor among upstarts such as Newark, N.J.'s Cory Booker, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Sharpe James in the most tightly contested Newark mayoral race in many years.
The study found vouchers are supported by black elected officials under the age of 40 by a 49 percent to 44 percent margin. Among blacks in office between the ages of 50 and 64, voucher support is 23 percent.
"The younger the group, the more likely they are to support vouchers," said study author David Bositis. "But remember that as a group, there are more older black elected officials. So as a whole, black elected officials still do not support vouchers."
Among the study's other findings:
The younger the elected official, the less likely he is to belong to a civil rights organization. Seventy percent of those 50 to 64 years old are members, while 46 percent of those under 40 are.
While 5 percent of those elected officials in the youngest age group cited racism as the most important problem facing America, 14 percent of those officials over the age of 65 did so.
Sixty-nine percent of black elected officials identified themselves as Democrats, while 77 percent of those 65 and older did so.
"Overall, what we have found is that there has been amazing progress among African-Americans," Mr. Bositis said. He pointed to generational experiences: "The older officials grew up when black Americans were confined to their own institutions like black churches.
"These newer leaders are growing up in a time when there is black leadership everywhere in so many organizations," he said.
A spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People noted that despite the findings, the older black leaders are still in charge.
"You can look at the views of some of the younger officials," said John White. "But they are a smaller part of the overall number of African-American elected officials."
Abut 11 percent of the 770 officials polled were in the youngest age group.
Jackie Cissell, a member of Black America's PAC, a Republican political action committee, looks at the newer black politics taking place in America and sees a change, even without regard for partisanship.
"We do honor the experiences of our forefathers, but times have changed and their actions have paved the way for us to have economic freedom," Miss Cissell said. "We are beholden to those accomplishments, but we have to move into another arena."
And as shown by Mr. Booker, the new breed of black politicians appears willing to take on the old guard.
At 32, Mr. Booker took on an established civil rights icon in Mr. James, who is 66. The response from the camp of Mr. James, a career politician and four-term mayor of the city, was to label Mr. Booker a "[homosexual] white boy" and a Republican. (Mr. Booker is a Democrat.)
Other newcomers have found more success. Artur Davis, a 34-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer, faces incumbent U.S. Rep. Earl F. Hilliard of Alabama in a June 25 Democratic runoff election, threatening to remove the five-term 60-year-old.
The victor will go to Washington, because there is no Republican opposition.
And in Philadelphia, a group of younger black political players are looking for a 2003 Democratic primary challenger to Mayor John Street who in April gleefully declared at an NAACP function that "the brothers and sisters are running the city."
Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the conservative Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, said that while these new political contestants are Democrats, their views are more centrist.
"They are for things like vouchers, and some are even pro-life," Mr. Peterson said. "They just aren't ready to shed the party yet."


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