Thursday, August 5, 2010

LATimes-President Obama Is Elusive Paradigm For Black Candidates

Fla. Senate Candidate Kentrick Meek and his mother, former U.S. Congresswoman Carrie Meek/Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel
(Story reported by James Oliphant)

Kendrick Meek tours Jimmy's Place, a workaday diner on Northwest 7th Avenue, with an easygoing familiarity. He's on his home turf — and it shows. He squeezes hands and arms and banters with customers, some of whom have known him for years. If every corner of Florida could be like this one, he'd cruise to a Senate seat.

Of course, it isn't. And the four-term congressman's bid to become the first African American senator from this state remains in serious trouble. He's behind in the polls, lagging in fundraising and facing a difficult primary next month against a billionaire.

If Meek doesn't reach the Senate, the chamber will open its next session without a single black member for the first time since 2004.

But he's not the only African American candidate to struggle this year. The difficulties come as something of a surprise just two years after the historic election of Barack Obama, which for some signaled the arrival of a new generation of Democratic African American candidates who, like Obama, would shatter long-standing barriers.

"What the president did bring about was empirical evidence to show that people of goodwill can come together and vote for the best candidate," Meek said over omelets in the Miami diner. "The president showed that it can happen."

But for black candidates looking to follow Obama's lead, that has yet to come to pass.

(click here to read the full story on the Los Angeles Times website)

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