Connie Johnson, who is still debating whether to throw her hat in the Fifth Senatorial ring, has been trying, literally since the day after the 2006 election, to get herself, Robin Wright Jones, and Rodney Hubbard together to discuss how they could agree on one of them to run. (If you need the background on why that would be necessary, see my last posting.) The three of them met for breakfast the day after the election to discuss that question. Obviously, they did not resolve it.
What she wants is some way for all of them to come out a winner, and what she means by that is that they would agree on which one of them would run, but they would also agree on something those who dropped out could expect. Johnson cited the example last year of Barbara Fraser and Jake Zimmerman, who both wanted to run for a seat on the County Council. Fraser was term limited out of the House, so someone talked Zimmerman into running for her House seat instead. He’s now a rep and she’s a Council member. That’s what Johnson means by everyone being a winner.
That particular solution wouldn’t work in the Fifth District, but if the person chosen to run were to win the race, he or she could use the appointive powers of the office to put the other two on whatever commission or board interested them.
But there was a glitch: All three of them were more interested in appointing the other two than in staying out of the race.
What they needed was a political intervention, and at one time or another each of them has tried to get that process jump started. So far they’ve had no success. Johnson said that she had hoped Representative Clay would step forward, but he didn’t, and eventually he endorsed Hubbard. The outgoing senator, Maida Coleman, could have taken the reins, but she didn’t, and eventually she endorsed Wright Jones.
That leaves John Temporiti, the state Democratic party chairman–who, as a matter of fact has been doing exactly that kind of duty in a number of other races. He’s had some success, but it can be a thorny role to play. So far, for example, all three Attorney General candidates stand firm about their qualifications, chances of success, and intention to run. Temporiti has not announced that he plans to mediate in the fifth senatorial race, but he would be the logical one to do it.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Villa are waiting about making a decision. Johnson points out that if there’s no intervention, she might as well join the race. There probably aren’t enough African-American voters in the primary to support two black candidates without handing the race to a white candidate, so she figures she wouldn’t be making the situation any worse.
The dilemma candidates face in this district is a direct result of term limits. It used to be that a person in the legislature moved on when there was an opening elsewhere or when he was ready to leave politics. Now, four representatives in one senatorial district will have to leave in the same year. If they love politics and want to stay in that arena, their options are severely limited.
And there’s one more kink created by this crowded primary. If Tom Villa joins the race and wins, that would be likely to affect the African-American turnout in the general election. Many will figure, he’s not our man, and he’s probably going to beat any Republican opponent anyway. That attitude is all well and good except that statewide, our party is going to need every Dem it can muster in order to squeak by in the gubernatorial race.