Some black community leaders will not say it publicly, but they are concerned a crowded field including three well-known black candidates in the Racine mayoral campaign could split the black vote and throw the race to a white candidate.
The question that should be asked is who the better candidate is and how is that determined? Another question that comes to mind is what type of candidate the African American community wants to lead them. During these changing times, is it necessary that African Americans should support a black just because he or she is black
With African Americans making up over 27% of Racine's city population, a black should have a good chance to become a first. You know what I mean, the first black mayor. It has a nice ring to it.
Let us look at the candidates and how they stack up
Representative Robert Turner, D-Wisconsin, is one of the senior statesmen in Madison from Racine. From a political mindset, he has more experience than any other candidate does in the field. For two decades, he served on the city council, held down the chair of the powerful Finance Committee. At present, as an Assembly member he chairs the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee. One would be foolish to bet that he will not be in the top five.
Alderman/Supervisor Q. A. Shakoor II has always shown the drive, and hard work that is necessary to win elections like the one we are witnessing unfold. Well liked by the majority of the community, and gifted with the Obama persona, “Q’ could be a spoiler in this race we could easily foresee. However, the question remains, who is Shakoor II’s base. He has never aligned himself with any party, nor have we noted him camping out with the labor and the union folks.
Lesia Hill-Driver, the Director of the Dr. John Bryant Center, as the only African-American female candidate left in the race, could also make a surprise finish. Hill-Driver, who served as a member of the County Board for 10 years, also is no stranger to galvanizing large blocks of voters. Recently, when former Mayor Gary Becker threatened to close down several community centers, Hill-Driver was able to mobilize over 500 voters over night. She is well educated. A teacher at Gateway, she has the ears of many of the young voters left over from the Obama election.
Now here is the big question, and two ways to view it. Will the black vote be split? I think not. In fact, I feel it is good for more than one African American to be running in the contest. I believe it will draw more people of color to the polls. Who is to say which of the three is the best candidate. Does experience matter the most? I believe that Obama's election signals change. The voters want to see that on all levels, but they (the voters) want to decide what change means to them as individuals. Fancy slogans and catchy phrases no longer will get a candidate elected. That means that each candidate must clearly define his or her message directly to the voters.
In Indiana, with several African American candidates running for the same state office, in order to tackle this issue of splitting the vote head on, the black community leaders in December and January tried meeting to support one candidate. No such luck, the black contenders were unable to unite behind a single candidate, and all but one stayed in the race.
Jay Warner has left a comment on our Blog at RacineinsiderBlogspot.com. “If the Black Community really educates 'itself' on the issues, they will have set a new record of accomplishment in the American electorate. Most people look at a candidate, get a feeling for or against that person, and spend the rest of the campaign time finding reasons to match that gut assessment. It would be nice if this always produced someone like President Obama, but it doesn't.”
Another blogger, Gina B. said... “I've always felt that it would be a great thing for the black community to have more than one possible candidate that could represent us well.
I also feel that it's a good thing that black candidates will have to work to get our vote. After all, for too long now, many black candidates have assumed that they were entitled to that vote. I like the idea that my individual vote will mean enough to them that they will have to make the effort to actually earn (and keep) it."
This is just what naturally happens when you have more than one potential leader. The choices are simple - either they learn to work hard and earn our votes, or they minimize the number of black candidates. The latter, I think, would sacrifice progression for power and pride.
However, as a former elected official for eight years, I feel strongly that African-American voters are very astute politically and can judge for themselves. The same as a race we wish not to be lumped into one category, the same prevails politically. That made me believe people will vote for whomever they think is the best, though there will always be people who vote on race.