2009 Elections / Local / Politics / Race / Terry McAuliffe / Virginia

Richmond Crusade for Voters controversy

I was a wee bit busy when the announcement was made of the endorsement of Terry McAuliffe by the Richmond Crusade for Voters. I did see that Sen. Henry Marsh, a long-time member of the historic black organization and a supporter of Creigh Deeds, was upset by the vote, as pointed out by the Richmond Times in the announcement linked above as well as the Washington Post. I happen to have spoken with another member of the Crusade – also a Deeds supporter – about a week ago. That person was equally upset and mentioned that the former head of the organization, Antoine Green, is a McAuliffe supporter. (Green resigned in order to run for the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Del. Frank Hall in the 69th. He is one of three candidates in that primary. More on that later.)

But as this article points out, it wasn’t just Marsh/Deeds supporters who were upset. Richmond Mayor, the Rev. Dwight Jones, a supporter of Brian Moran, and Sen. Donald MacEachin, who has not endorsed in this primary, joined with Marsh last Friday in questioning the endorsement. MacEachin went so far as to call it “tainted.”

The endorsement was one of the topics of conversation at Del. Kenny Alexander’s picnic on Memorial Day. One of the attendees was from Richmond. Interestingly enough, he said something very similar to what Marsh said: that this process would “diminish the credibility” of the organization.

Could this be the beginning of the end?

Here in Norfolk, we had an organization called the Concerned Citizens for Political Education*. Founded by Evelyn Butts, one of the things that the organization produced was the Goldenrod Ballot. This guide ballot, which was printed on goldenrod-colored paper, was distributed to let black voters know who the organization had endorsed. (To give some idea of the strength of the organization, read through this 4th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in which the group is cited. Or this oral history provided by Al Teich in which the goldenrod ballot is cited.) Although the organization no longer exists (as far as I know), the goldenrod-colored paper is still used (note that was what was used in the Sessoms campaign) as many try to tie their candidates to this storied organization.

There are a few things that are worthy of comment. First, if there were irregularities in the process, then the endorsement means little. And one has to wonder: will the endorsement carry any weight with the targeted voters?

More importantly, though: these organizations were started as a way of educating black voters, not just on candidates, but on the political process. The need for that education continues to this day – for all voters, not just black ones. The disappearance of these organizations has left a void not filled by any other source.

*This organization’s name was used by whoever produced a hit piece against me when I ran in 2005. Given that the organization was inactive at the time, the flier had to have come from someone who was familiar with the historic organization.