State Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, the Milwaukee Democrat running in the August primary for state senator, urged a gathering of mostly black voters Saturday to “vote for someone that looks like you.”
The remark by Coggs, who is African-American, evoked both cheers and shouts of protest from the audience and from some of the other primary candidates who were invited to speak at the Community Brainstorming Conference at St. Matthew CME Church.
“That’s just wrong,” shouted Mandela Barnes, who is also African-American and is running against incumbent Jason Fields in the 11th Assembly District primary. Fields also is black.
Democratic State Rep. Sandy Pasch, who’s running to replace Coggs in the 10th Assembly District, said Coggs’ statement was aimed at her. Pasch is white, while the three other candidates in the 10th district Democratic primary are all African-American, and she said that to suggest voters choose a candidate based on his or her skin color was poor advice. “If everyone in America did that, Barack Obama wouldn’t be president,” she said.
Millie Coby, the candidate Elizaebth Coggs has endorsed, essentially agreed with Coggs, saying, “We need to have more integration in the leadership,” Coby said after Coggs spoke. “We need to integrate the party.” Ironically enough, it was Ieshuh Griffin, who drew national attention two years ago when she ran as an independent and tried unsuccessfully to get the phrase “NOT the whiteman’s bitch” on the ballot, disagreed with Coggs, saying, “I don’t think anyone should vote for anyone on account of their skin color.”
As Dan Cody wrote on his blog, the sentiments shared by Rep. Coggs on Saturday seem to be more than a simple misstatement – they seem to be something she truly believes to be true. Casting a vote for a particular candidate based solely on the skin color of a candidate – instead of the ideas, vision, and leadership potential that candidate brings to the table – is wrong, wrong, wrong, and Coggs’ statement reeks of an establishment politician wanting to preserve the status quo, never mind whether the status quo isn’t working.
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this entry, it occurred to me that back in June, Ed posted an excellent entry detailing the attacks on State Sen. Chris Larson by African-American elected officials and the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Black Caucus, Stephanie Findley, for what they perceived to be Larson’s meddling in several races involving African-American elected officials.
Here’s an email Stephanie Findley wrote to Ed at the time.
Chris Larson has made some very inappropriate comments about the elected leaders in the African American Community. He has decided that he is the person who can make decisions on who can run for office in our community without even having conversations with any of the Black Elected Officials, Black Community Leaders or our Faith Leadership whatsoever.
He has made it known about how he feels about Black Representation by involving himself in the 10th Assembly District race that has served the African American community since 1972. In the Black community, the voters get to decide who shall represent our community not Chris. He has been very disrespectful to our community and our feelings as it relates to Black Representation. We understand that the republicans drew the lines but it’s our so call progressives who are running in open majority Black seats in our community and he is at the forefront of deciding who’s fit to represent us. Our community is already in a fragile state of mind and we don’t need someone who thinks he can find some tokens who will become puppeteers under his leadership while he pulls the strings and tells them what to think and how to think as it relates to making future decisions that will impact the African American community for decades to come.
Putting aside the incredibly dismissive and disrespectful nature of Stephanie Findley’s comments – which were clearly directed at Mandela Barnes and Nikiya Harris – her willingness to play the race card is disappointing, because the same statements from a caucasian member of the Democratic Party apparatus would be widely attacked as racist.
And for the record, while Stephanie Findley is quick to call real progressives “so call progressives,” she need look no further than Jason “I took campaign money from Scott Jensen” and Lena “concealed carry” Taylor as examples of so-called progressives, because no progressive I know would ever take money from a disgraced and convicted former Republican Assembly Speaker or vote FOR concealed carry of firearms.