The Anita Hill vote

March 20, 1992

The upset victory of Carol Moseley Braun in the Democratic Senate primary in Illinois Tuesday was clearly due in very large part to the fact that her opponent, Sen. Alan Dixon, voted for Clarence Thomas' nomination as a Supreme Court justice. There is a strong anti-Washington, anti-incumbent mood in the nation -- but that mood would not alone enable a little-known, under-funded black, female minor courthouse official to oust a sitting U.S. senator.

It took "the Anita Hill vote" to produce this result. Ms. Braun, Cook County recorder of deeds in Chicago, got 40 percent of the women's vote in the three-candidate race, according to exit polls, running well not only among other liberal black women Democrats in Chicago, but also among the many conservative white Republican women in the Chicago suburbs and in downstate Illinois who voted in the open Democratic primary.

It also took a lot of money spent on anti-Dixon commercials by a third candidate in the race. This in effect was pro-Braun spending. If she is to do well again in November, she will need her own bankroll. Republicans have already put the Illinois race "at the top of our target list," even though their nominee, former White House aide Rich Williamson, is not a highly regarded candidate. Democratic congressional campaign officials say they can't match the Republicans on this score. So Ms. Braun will have to look elsewhere. She probably will attract a lot of financial support from women's groups across the nation.

Whether Ms. Braun wins or loses in November, her nomination is an important milestone for women and for blacks. Not only that, but her candidacy may pose a threat to President Bush. He carried Illinois with 50.7 percent of the vote in 1988. Had black turnout not been low (because of the Democratic Party's perceived slights of Jesse Jackson), he probably would have lost the state. The black vote could well be higher than normal in Illinois in 1992 because of the Braun candidacy.

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