Question for Miss.: Can a black man win?

Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state, which is often cited as an indicator of racial progress. However, it is more of an indicator of the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act which knocked down barriers and lengthy court battles that created constitutional single-member, black-majority districts. Racially polarized voting remains the norm.

While some white candidates have won in black-majority districts, it is extremely rare for black candidates to prevail in white-majorities. (There is only one black legislator from a white-majority population district.)

Statewide races by former state fiscal officer Gary Anderson, who is black, for treasurer and insurance commissioner have gained the most credibility. But he lost, even when facing a lesser-qualified white opponent.

2nd District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, now the most powerful black elected official in the state, is not optimistic, at least in the short term.

“It’s possible, but even with somebody as popular as Barack Obama is, he could not carry the state of Mississippi,” said Thompson. “I am not certain at this time that anybody could carry it given the polarized voting that occurs in our state.”

David Hampton
Clarion Ledger
1/18/9