The Associated Press
McAuliffe's Ascension Causes Dissension
By Jonathan D. Salant Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Terry McAuliffe's apparent ascension to chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee is being criticized by some black Democrats, who were pushing the candidacy of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.
The officials are angry because they were not consulted before McAuliffe, the party's most prolific fund-raiser, decided to run. He quickly landed the endorsements of President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, as well as AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
The black officials said they should have been involved in the decision rather than told after-the-fact, especially considering their constituents provided such a crucial part of the Democratic vote in last month's presidential election.
"Any time there's a decision to be made, there needs to be some communication," said Texas state Rep. Al Edwards, chairman of the Democratic National Committee's black caucus. "All of this could have been eliminated had we been consulted."
Other black leaders, most notably civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, have lined up behind McAuliffe.
"When a president, who is the head of our Democratic Party, reaches out and taps someone who has been as involved as Terry has been, I find myself being very willing to support him," Archer said.
"You'd love to have an opportunity to work through the process and advise constituents, but sometimes you start down that path and news leaks out. It takes it out of the realm of being able to quietly chitchat with folks."
In an interview, McAuliffe said he is seeking the position, and anyone is free to run against him. "I am running a campaign," he said.
McAuliffe and the man he will succeed, outgoing National Chairman Joe Andrew, have spent the last four days calling DNC members.
Both men were told Tuesday by Edwards and Rep. Maxine Waters of California that they already had reached out to Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor and a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Jackson, who did not return a phone call, has yet to tell supporters whether he is interested in the post, and some Democrats have suggested that he share the party leadership with McAuliffe.
Under this scenario, Jackson would become the party's general chairman, succeeding former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, while McAuliffe replaces Andrew as national chairman.
Both Andrew and Rendell earlier said they had planned to step down after the 2000 elections. Democratic officials anticipated combining their posts into a single chairmanship next year.
McAuliffe said he talked with former mayor Jackson, who told him he had made no decision.
The controversy has arisen just one month after an election that saw a massive outpouring of support for Democrats from the black community. Blacks accounted for 10 percent of the electorate and favored Gore over George W. Bush by a margin of 9 to 1, according to exit polls. The NAACP spent $9 million to get blacks to the polls.
At the same time, there were allegations that police intimidated black voters in Florida at roadblocks as they headed to the polls, and others never saw their ballots counted because of defective machines. The Justice Department is looking into the allegations.
If elected chairman, McAuliffe said he would name blacks to top party positions and would hold hearings on whether black voters were disenfranchised on Election Day.
"They came out in droves for this party, they worked harder than anyone else did, and there were many African-American voters who were disenfranchised," McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe has ties to two potential 2004 candidates: Gore, for whom he helped raise money in this election, and Gephardt, whom he served as finance chairman during the House Democratic leader's unsuccessful 1988 presidential bid.
A golfing buddy of President Clinton, McAuliffe chaired the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles and directed a salute to Clinton in May that brought in $26.5 million for the party, a record one-day haul for either major political party.