Rush Wins Primary, Other Black Caucus Members Also Face Challenges

by Nathan L. Gonzales March 27, 2016 · 9:00 AM EDT

Long-time Rep. Bobby L. Rush survived a primary challenge on March 15, and he’s just the first in a series of Congressional Black Caucus members facing an opponent from within the Democratic Party.

Rush won the Illinois primary 71-19 percent over Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. for the South Side seat.

Earlier in the race, the 69-year-old Rush barely squeezed on to the ballot after trouble submitting enough valid signatures. The congressman also trailed Brookins in cash on hand on Feb. 24, $93,000 to $75,000, and Brookins had the support of state House Speaker Michael Madigan.

But Rush prevailed. The congressman’s most famous primary challenge is still 2000, when he fended off then-state Sen. Barack Obama, 61-30 percent.

The most vulnerable black incumbent in a primary is Philadelphia-area Rep. Chaka Fattah. The 2nd District Democrat faces a 29-count indictment on corruption charges and a credible primary on April 26.

Under a cloud of legal problems, the 59-year-old had less than $8,000 in his campaign account on Dec. 31. Meanwhile, his most serious opponent, state Rep. Dwight Evans, had over $300,000 at that time. Since it is one of the most Democratic districts in the country, there is no risk of a GOP takeover.

In Missouri’s 1st District, Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay faces state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal in the 1st District primary on Aug. 2.

Chappelle-Nadal has been critical of William Lacy Clay’s lack of response after a police officer shot Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014. She has also said she believes Congress needs a woman with an Afro. But she's raised and spent less than $30,000 on the race through the end of 2015, compared to the $423,000 Clay had in available funds.

Florida Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, 73, faces a challenge from Randal “Thrill” Hill in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary in the 24th District. Hill is best known as a star wide receiver for the University of Miami, but Wilson had a tremendous cash advantage, $371,000 to $6,000, on Dec. 31.

Two of the most vulnerable Congressional Black Caucus members are in precarious electoral positions because of new, court-ordered congressional maps that changed the shape and makeup of their districts.

In Florida, Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown’s 5th District previously stretched from Jacksonville south to Orlando but now runs from Jacksonville north to Tallahassee. The 69-year-old faces multiple primary challengers, including former state Sen. Al Lawson, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2nd District in 2010 and 2012 under the old lines. The filing deadline is May 6 and primary is set for Aug. 30.

And in North Carolina, Democratic Rep. Alma Adams was just elected in 2014, but her 12th District was significantly redrawn by the courts. The 69-year-old moved from Greensboro to Charlotte to run for re-election after the new map put her home 90 miles outside of her current district.

The primary was delayed from March 15 (when it would have been held with the presidential and Senate primaries) to June 7. Former state Sen. Malcolm Graham (whom Adams defeated in the 2014 primary 44-24 percent), state Rep. Rodney Moore, and others are running against the incumbent in the Democratic primary. The filing deadline is March 25 and there is no runoff provision this year in the state, so the nominee will likely be chosen by a plurality of voters.

In Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden told The Advocate he is 90 percent sure he’ll challenge Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond in the 2nd District. But, as pointed out by Jeff Singer of Daily Kos Elections, just 14 percent of the New Orleans-based seat comes from East Baton Rouge and Richmond hasn’t done anything specific to incite Democratic voters against him.

In Louisiana, all candidates run together in a jungle primary on Nov. 8. If a candidate fails to clear 50 percent, the top two finishers move to a Dec. 10 runoff.

Considering Richmond’s dominance over Republicans in the last four congressional baseball games, the star pitcher is likely to receive an extraordinary amount of support from his colleagues, if the the race becomes competitive.

New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel faced some ethics questions and survived a couple of close calls in recent years. The congressman defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat 44-42 percent in 2012 and by a relative landslide, 48-43 percent, two years later. Rangel is not running for re-election this year, leaving a safe, open Democratic seat behind.

It looked like New York Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, 62, and in his ninth full term, had a serious challenge in the 5th District from state Sen. James Sanders Jr. in the June 28 primary. But Sanders dropped out of the race on March 15 and will seek re-election.