By Errin Haines
The Associated Press
DECATUR, Ga. —; Two months after a scuffle between a Capitol Hill police officer and Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, it is unclear whether her actions may hurt or help her shot at re-election this year.
Some of her constituents and political experts agree the March 29 incident shouldn’t matter much, and in fact the incident may give momentum to the fiery lawmaker known for her outspoken views and unconventional behavior.
“Everybody is still behind her 150 percent,” said Parish Jordan, a 32-year-old Decatur car salesman, who says he plans to vote for McKinney in this year’s elections.
“I was behind her from the beginning, and I’ll be with her every step of the way,” he said.
Supporters pointed to McKinney’s character, her leadership and stands for seniors and ex-military personnel as evidence of her hard work, and to a bold, unapologetic and proud personality —; a trait some said explains why she argued with a police officer who did not recognize her as she entered a House office building.
Police said McKinney struck the officer as he tried to stop her, but the Democratic congresswoman countered she was acting in self-defense after the officer “inappropriately touched” her. In interviews, McKinney —; Georgia’s first black woman elected to Congress —; repeatedly has blamed racial profiling for the incident.
McKinney’s spokesman, Coz Carson, said she is no longer commenting on the matter.
“I was overwhelmed at what happened,” Jordan said. “I thought it was very unfair to a woman.”
Principal assistant U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips in Washington said a grand jury is looking into the incident.
Hank Johnson, a Decatur lawyer challenging McKinney in the Democratic primary election on July 18, said what happened with McKinney was “a very unfortunate situation.”
“We’re forced to focus on this incident, at a time when we should be having a dialogue about the most pressing issues affecting our lives and those of our children ...” Johnson said. “I am hopeful that this matter will be resolved quickly so we can return to the issues that matter most to this district, our state and the nation.”
While the March incident was a distraction, it may not be a deterrent for voters in McKinney’s district just east of Atlanta, said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C.
“It would probably rally as many as it turned off. I don’t see this is something that people are going to be all up in arms about,” Bositis said.
He noted her strong base and showing in her 2004 return to the U.S. House of Representatives —; a seat she lost after five terms in 2002 to fellow Democrat Denise Majette, who campaigned on the premise that she would not embarrass the predominantly Democratic district as she claimed McKinney had.
“That’s one of those tricks you can do once, but it usually doesn’t happen again,” Bositis said of McKinney’s opponents’ prior success in unseating her.
And her latest controversy doesn’t seem to strike potential voters as “the same old Cynthia,” who raised eyebrows when she accused former Vice President Al Gore of having a “low Negro tolerance level” and questioned the Bush administration’s advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.
As a retired law enforcement officer and Army veteran, Charles Wilson of Stone Mountain believes that in this case, the entire episode was little more than a misunderstanding.
“It could have been unintentional. I think her attitude could’ve been a little different after it happened,” Wilson said. “But we all have regrets. ... We sit back and think about what we’ve said and done.”
Wilson did not hestitate when asked if he plans to vote for McKinney in the fall.
“Most assuredly,” he said. “She’s helped a lot of seniors that I know. She’s working on a disability case for me. I think she’s done a lot for her district.”
On the Net
Rep. Cynthia McKinney: http://www.house.gov/mckinney