Redistricting made Larry Kissell’s road to a third term as the U.S. representative of the 8th District uphill, but the steps have gotten even steeper because of infighting among black leaders that could cost the Biscoe Democrat votes he can’t afford to lose in a district of voters that favored John McCain in the 2008 election.
Those black leaders say Kissell made several mistakes, but the two most egregious seem to be: When asked if he would endorse President Obama, Kissell said no, and left it to his chief of staff to explain later that he doesn’t do endorsements, but he would vote for Obama. Kissell did not vote in favor of the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.
The result has been that the 8th District Black Leadership Caucus Political Action Committee now supports Antonio Blue, a black who is chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, as a write-in candidate in the November General Election. Although Blue’s name won’t be on the ballot with Kissell and Republican Richard Hudson, he is likely to peel some support away from Kissell, votes that could give Republicans a new seat in the U.S. House.
This matters here because all but a small slice of Robeson County is now in the 8th District, meaning most Robesonians will no longer be represented by Lumberton native Mike McIntrye, a Democrat seeking his ninth term — a pursuit also imperiled by redistricting.
Jimmy Gilchrist, Robeson County’s Black Caucus president, is warning blacks not to take their eye off the ball, saying that while Kissell might not be perfect, he is better than the Republican alternative. Gilchrist is worried about a change in what he sees as a favorable tide.
“The country is moving in the right direction with Democrats in charge,” he said. “We need to see that a Democrat is elected in the 8th District. We (blacks) won’t get anything from a Republican Congress.”
Gilchrist is willing to forgive Kissell’s transgressions, which also include not voting for Obama’s cap-and-trade legislation, and not supporting Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader in the House. Gilchrist points out that the incumbent congressman “has helped with education, Medicaid, Medicare and programs for seniors.”
Gilchrist has promised to battle hard for Kissell in Robeson County, which is likely to vote heavily for the Democrat through straight-ticket voting that we mindlessly embrace around these parts, but there could be plenty of damage as the district works its way westward and into Richmond County.
A split among 20 percent of the district’s population, one that traditionally votes hard for Democrats, could be Kissell’s undoing. Hudson has to be enjoying the show.