In Open Primary Southern States, Black Voters Flex New Muscle
Patrik Jonsson - The Christian Science Monitor
June 28, 2014
An unexpected group of voters charged in to save veteran Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican, from losing a primary squeaker against a tea party challenger: Black Democrats.
Cochran’s challenger, Chris McDaniel, lashed out at how Cochran’s camp used the state’s open primary system - where anyone, regardless of party, can vote - to entice Democrats, many of them black, to come to the polls on Tuesday.
But Cochran’s ability to rally about 35,000 Democrats, a critical number of them African-American, in order to get a slim majority is being mulled across the South - especially in Georgia and Alabama, two other open primary states with big contests coming up - as a new, potentially powerful dynamic that could be a force in reshaping the Republican party and even provide an electoral counterweight to tea party challengers from the party’s right flank.
To be sure, Thad Cochran, who has brought millions in earmarks to one of the poorest states in the union, is a man with many friends, which is one of the reasons why the tea party movement targeted him as a false conservative, and a big-spending Washington fat cat to boot.
But lots of black voters may have responded to pleas from his campaign because Cochran has made a connection with them, too, over the years, given that blacks represent 37 percent of the state’s population. Over 36 years in congress, Cochran has regularly drawn over 70 percent of the vote, meaning lots of Democrats vote for him too.