Sunday, July 20, 2008
Controversy has always been Cynthia McKinney’s trademark. This election season, she may have finally found her perfect political home. Last weekend, the 53-year-old former Georgia congresswoman clinched the Green Party’s presidential nomination; 35-year-old hip-hop activist and activist Rosa Clemente will be her running mate.
A firebrand politician best known for her impolitic statements during her more than 20 years in public life, McKinney has had a mixed electoral record as a Democrat in her district in recent years. After 10 years in office, she was upset in 2002 by fellow Democrat Denise Majette, re-elected in 2004, and ousted again in 2006 by the 4th District’s current Democratic congressman, Rep. Hank Johnson. Most commentators point to her altercation with a U.S. Capitol police officer and her accusations that the Bush administration covered up its role in the 9/11 attacks to explain the losses, but McKinney cites voting irregularities like those highlighted in “American Blackout,” a 2006 documentary that focuses on her career.
McKinney’s nomination brings some name recognition to the Green Party, but it’s unclear how far that will take them this election cycle. The Green Party barely made a dent in the 2004 election, picking up only 119,859 votes, or 0.1 percent of the total. The specter of Ralph Nader’s more successful 2.8 million vote bid in 2000 looms large for Democrats determined to prevent another third party spoiler. McKinney is joined as a non-major-party contender this year by both Nader, running as an independent, and another former U.S. House member from Georgia, Bob Barr, the Libertarian nominee. The troika may increase the number of votes that go to “spoiler” candidates–or merely splinter it.
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McKinney’s goal: a full 5 percent of the vote. Checking in with her just before she won the nomination, NEWSWEEK’s Katie Paul spoke with McKinney about her reasons for running and how her campaign might affect the election season. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Is there a story behind your campaign website’s name, RunCynthiaRun?
Cynthia McKinney: It came from California supporters who really, really wanted me to run. I was inclined not to. I had delayed my personal aspirations for so long, but the RunCynthiaRun group just wouldn’t take no for an answer. There’s been a long-standing relationship between me and individual members of the Green Party. They were interested in me in 2000 and again in 2004. I have been requested several times to run as a member of the Green Party. The Greens have never been on the ballot in Georgia because of restrictive ballot access laws. So while I understood that their ideals were in the places that public policy ought to be, people in Georgia just didn’t really know who they were.
You stayed with the Democratic Party until last year. Why the decision to go with the Green Party route now?
The Greens have always been supportive of my political aspirations. My very first political friend was a member of the Green Party. If you view the Youtube clip [of my announcement that I was leaving the Democratic Party], it’s really clear.