by Kenneth Lumpin, Publisher
Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton announced this week that she is dropping out of the governor's race for "very personal reasons," leaving the Democrats without a major candidate for the office just more than a year away from the election.
"My deep commitment to our state is second only to my commitment to my family," Lawton wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "For very personal reasons, I will not pursue the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2010."
What impact will this have on the Racine branch of the NAACP's efforts to have local influence in the Governor's race, held next November?
In an unusual break from staying out of politics, the local branch President Alderman Michael Shields, invited Lawton's campaign to be their keynote speaker at the civil rights organization's 59th Freedom Fund dinner held recently at the Racine’s Marriott Hotel.
Will the branch now get behind Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who now remains as the only major Democrat considering getting into the race to replace Gov. Jim Doyle, who opted against seeking a third term.
Some members behind closed doors feel that getting involved in the governors’ race could violate the nonprofit, nonpartisan civil rights organization’s rules by having a partisan political candidate as their guestspeaker, and suggest that leaders draw back from dragging the organization into political races.
The third vice president of the North Carolina State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Michael Leach, is being accused of violating the organization’s rules by appearing in a partisan political television ad without disclaiming his membership.
In a Feb. 29 letter to Leach from Curmilus Dancy II, second vice president of the Rocky Mount NAACP and publicity director for the State Conference, Dancy tells Leach that “some inside the NAACP” who have called him were “concerned” that Leach’s appearance in the political ad, given his positions in the NC NAACP, “may be unethical.”
He wrote, “These folks are concerned that this advertisement…will put the NAACP members under scrutiny.”
He added that Leach’s political ad appearance also put “a damper” on a recent NC NAACP-sponsored gubernatorial debate in Durham.
In Racine, could Lawton's invite in some way damage the efforts to active registered voters and encourage them to vote in Wisconsin gubernatorial race.
The organization should be sensitive to the matter, especially given the run-in it had in 2004 with the Internal Revenue Service, which launched a probe after NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond made a speech one month before the presidential elections, highly critical of incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.
Bond denied the charge, saying that the NAACP has historically criticized both Republicans and Democrats in power without ever taking sides in an election.
In ending it, from my prospective, I feel that the Racine Branch of the NAACP should do the same, end all involvements in political races. After all, there are enough local issues to dig into.