- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The presidential candidacy of former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun creates a new urgency for supporters of the Rev. Al Sharpton, a candidate who had banked on having the nation's sizable and almost monolithically Democratic black electorate to himself.
Many already are dismissing Mrs. Moseley-Braun as an interloper on Mr. Sharpton's bid, citing accusations of past ethical misconduct and her relatively late announcement.
Mrs. Moseley-Braun was to file her exploratory committee papers yesterday but federal offices were shut down by weather. An aide said she will be in Washington today and will file then.
Some believe that Democrats, unsettled by the possible Ross Perot effect Mr. Sharpton could have, drafted Mrs. Moseley-Braun to run.
"I would bet that Carol is being paid for this," said Hermene Hartman, publisher of N'Digo, a black newspaper in Chicago. "She is part of a Democratic strategy to dilute the vote for Al Sharpton. I think that the Democratic Party is nervous on Sharpton because he is unpredictable and he has a hot hand."
Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. told the Internet newsletter PoliticsNH.com that "I have heard rumors not unlike what the [Democratic Leadership Council] did when they tried to use former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder to undercut my father's potential campaign in 1992 that she is possibly being led into this race by Democratic forces who would not like to see Al Sharpton in the race or do very well, and they see her as being able to undercut his campaign. I hope that this is not the dynamic at work with respect to her potential campaign."
But others already are speaking of Mrs. Moseley-Braun as a viable candidate who is more likely to succeed than Mr. Sharpton.
"She will bring a message to a group of voters who are often ignored, and that's the black female vote," said Donna Brazile, chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute. "It's unfortunate that the party hasn't had a black woman run since Shirley Chisholm in 1972."
Miss Brazile encouraged Mrs. Moseley-Braun to enter the fray, as she has others.
But neither candidate, while both black, will be able to rest on race alone.
"Sharpton is no more competition than the other candidates who are in," said Kevin Lampe, a spokesman for Mrs. Moseley-Braun. "Carol has always run races where she has gotten votes from every part of the electorate."
In his presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson sought the support of the white middle-class vote with moderate success.
For these two, it is an even tougher prospect, as both of them are carrying largely the same anti-Bush message.
During Mrs. Moseley-Braun's pre-campaign swing through the key primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina over the weekend, she attempted to distance herself from the seven other Democratic hopefuls, claiming an aversion to budget deficits and her opposition to the war in Iraq.
Until Mrs. Moseley-Braun's announcement, Mr. Sharpton held the luxury of the spoiler role, a man who, because he has no chance of winning the nomination, can say things other candidates won't.
He can say what he truthfully thinks without weighing the polls, as the anti-Washington candidate.
Mr. Sharpton has said he welcomes the new competition, although he also said he doubted she would get the same support he now enjoys.
Mr. Sharpton could not be reached to elaborate.
Mrs. Moseley-Braun, 55, in 1992 became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
During her term in the Senate, she faced accusations of ethical misconduct, including misusing leftover 1992 campaign funds for personal luxuries and exercising poor judgment in visiting Nigeria's brutal former dictator.
She lost a bid for re-election in 1998, and was later named ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa by President Bill Clinton.

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