January 18, 2003
Leader may be lured by higher post
Moseley-Braun won't run for Senate in 2004
By DORI MEINERT
of Copley News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun said Friday she would not attempt to regain her old Senate seat in 2004, but left open the
possibility that she would seek a higher post - the presidency.
"Many friends, supporters and citizens have welcomed me and encouraged me to run for the Senate seat now held without distinction by Peter Fitzgerald," she said in a written statement.
"However, I am convinced that I can serve my country at this time by taking up new challenges to provide vision and leadership at this critical point in our nation's history. I therefore will not be a candidate for election to the United States Senate," she said.
In a telephone interview Friday, Moseley-Braun said she hasn't decided whether to run for president and that she's a long way from making a decision.
"I've been asked. I've been approached about it. And particularly now that I'm not going to run for the Senate, I'm going to talk to people and see what they
think," she said.
Prominent Democrats have said Moseley-Braun is exploring a possible presidential bid.
Earlier this week, she told Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe to save a seat for her at a meeting with Democratic presidential candidates in February, a Democratic National Committee source said.
"I think the more, the better," said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 campaign and has encouraged Moseley-Braun to run, as she has others.
"I think she can bring out black voters across the country. I also think she can bring out women voters and other voters," said Brazile, who emphasized that
she's not endorsing anyone in the primary.
Moseley-Braun made political history when she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, becoming the first black woman to join that mostly white, male group.
She also drew national prominence for speaking out eloquently against U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., on the Senate floor over the Confederate flag. She
persuaded the Senate to defeat his push to renew a design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy that included the Confederate flag. Later,
she accused Helms of whistling "Dixie" when they shared an elevator.
But Fitzgerald used allegations that she misused campaign funds and criticism over a controversial trip to visit a brutal Nigerian dictator to defeat her in 1998. Then-President Clinton named her ambassador to New Zealand in 1999. After Clinton left the White House, Moseley-Braun returned to Illinois to teach at DePaul University. She formerly served in the Illinois General Assembly and as Cook County recorder of deeds.
Moseley-Braun dismissed the problems of her Senate tenure as a "public relations issue." But, she said, "I'm older and wiser now."
While Moseley-Braun would have had difficulty avoiding the negative images of her six-year Senate term if she ran again for that office, a presidential run would give her wide media exposure with little downside, political
"The expectations are lower and I think the risks are less," Kent Redfield, a political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield said of her potential presidential bid. "It's hard to imagine her mounting any
kind of serious bid," he said. "But certainly at this point, it's a wide open field. . . .
"Whether or not she's got a political future is anybody's guess," Redfield said.
Her candidacy could siphon black support from New York activist Al Sharpton, who is expected to formalize his candidacy next week.
But a national candidacy would help Moseley-Braun build a political base if she wants to go back to the Senate in the future, said Ron Walters, a politics
professor at the University of Maryland who focuses on African-Americans in leadership.
Brazile said she had advised Moseley-Braun that a Senate rematch against Fitzgerald would be difficult to win in 2004.
"Rematches are often hard. Why do you think Al Gore decided that he didn't want to do a rematch? Rematches are about the last election and not the
upcoming election," Brazile said.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Chicago, also discouraged Moseley-Braun from seeking the Senate seat. He already had pledged support to state Sen.
Barack Oabama, the only other African-American candidate in the race.