Sunday, January 23, 2000

Dems' deliverance may be near


McMickle offers attention in Senate race

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio Democrats have been wandering the desert a long time now, searching in vain for the Promised Land.

        They haven't held a statewide office since Lee Fisher lost the attorney general's race in 1994; both houses of the Ohio General Assembly are in Republican hands and likely to stay that way; and, worst of all, the two offices that they have always found to be the easiest to win and hold — the U.S. Senate seats — are occupied by Republicans, George Voinovich and Mike DeWine.

        What the Democrats seek is deliverance.

        Marvin McMickle wants to be the deliverer.

        Now, if you are a Democrat who lives outside the Cleveland metropolitan area, you have probably never heard of Marvin McMickle.

        He is a tall, impressive-looking fellow with a deep, profound voice well-suited to his calling as a Baptist preacher on the east side of Cleveland.

        In Cleveland politics, they know him. He has been on the local political scene for more

        than a decade, as president of the Cleveland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and as community leader.

        He is also known in his hometown for his skills as a speaker, as someone who can get up in front of an audience and turn them on — something of a job requirement for someone who preaches in a Baptist church on Sundays.

        But, if you are a Democrat in any other part of the state, you will come to know him in the next six weeks as one of three candidates in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary vying for the chance to take on Mr. DeWine this fall.

        Marvin McMickle plans on winning that primary.

        Then he plans on taking out a sitting United States senator this fall.

        Pretty ambitious plan for a man who has never been elected to anything except the Shaker Heights Board of Education. Rising from a suburban school board to the World's Most Exclusive Club in one jump would be one of the greatest acts of political leapfrogging since William Henry Harrison went from Hamilton County Clerk of Courts to president of the United States.

        A year ago, the bubble boys inside the Washington beltway were stroking their beards over what damage Mr. DeWine's role in the Clinton impeachment saga would do to his re-election chances this year; surely, they said, there would be a backlash.

        But “impeachment fallout” ranks right up there with the Comet Kohoutek on the all-time list of duds.

        All of the big names in Ohio Democratic politics took a pass on running for Mr. DeWine's seat this year, leaving the field to three lesser- known candidates — Ted Celeste (brother of the former governor), a Columbus businessman who has never held elective office; Richard Cordray, the former state solicitor who ran against Attorney General Betty Montgomery in 1998 and lost; and Mr. McMickle.

        Mr. McMickle, in Cincinnati for a campaign stop Friday, made it clear that the only way the U.S. Senate race in Ohio is going to attract any attention this year is if he is the Democratic candidate.

        This is a pretty astounding thing, but today, there is not a single African-American among the 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

        And even more astounding is the fact that, in the entire country, there is apparently only one African-American major-party candidate for the U.S. Senate — Marvin McMickle.

        “If I am the candidate this fall,” Mr. McMickle said Friday, “Simply because there will be no other African-American Senate candidates anywhere, this race automatically gets attention. It gets people excited.”

        It is the fact that he is an African-American that has many Democratic leaders in the state excited about the possibility of breathing some life into a campaign many of them had thought was hopeless.

        If, this fall, Mr. McMickle is the Democratic candidate, the Senate race in Ohio is likely to draw some national media attention. And, in politics, it works like this: media attention makes the money start to flow; money makes the race a real competition.

        And, the next thing you know, you're in the Promised Land.

        E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com.

       



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