After Victory, Motown Mayor Gets a New Label

By Chris Cillizza
Thursday, November 10, 2005

The hip-hop mayor last night won himself a new nickname: the Comeback Kid.

Consigned by commentators to the political scrap heap as recently as 10 days ago, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) pulled out a stunning, late-night 53 percent to 47 percent victory over former deputy mayor Freman Hendrix (D) to win a second term.

As proof that much of politics is simply showing up, a number of observers -- including Hendrix -- credited Kilpatrick's come-from-behind win to his high-profile appearance at the funeral of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks last week.

Kilpatrick addressed the crowd -- a who's who of black America -- and his mother, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), urged attendees to "take your souls to the polls and vote. That's the tribute we owe Mother Parks."

Early in the night, Detroit voters seemed unmoved by the Kilpatrick family appeal, as Hendrix opened up a solid lead in the count. But, in the early hours of Wednesday, Kilpatrick surged ahead and stayed there.

Kilpatrick struggled throughout the campaign to shake his image as a party boy -- from his large diamond stud earring to the luxury sport-utility vehicle he leased for his family on the city's dime. His lifestyle led the local media to invent the "hip hop" moniker.

San Diego Picks New Mayor

Across the country, voters in San Diego decided they didn't want to mix politics and surfing after all.

Democratic City Council member Donna Frye, a local surf shop owner and wife of big kahuna surfer Skip Frye, was defeated by former police chief Jerry Sanders, a Republican, Tuesday night.

Sanders's victory ends a wild year in San Diego political history that began last November with Frye -- running as a write-in candidate -- nearly toppling incumbent Dick Murphy (R). Unable to put the city's finances in order, Murphy stepped down in July, triggering Tuesday's special mayoral election.

Frye led the open primary balloting later that month but fell shy of the 50 percent mark she needed to avoid a runoff against Sanders.

A Post-Election Day Ritual

There are few Washington rituals more tested and familiar than post-Election Day interpretations. The winners hold news conference after news conference to make grand pronouncements about how the just-concluded election represents a reshaping of the political world. The losers -- for the most part -- huddle behind closed doors, emerging occasionally to shine a light on whatever sliver of good news they can find, and caution reporters about drawing large lessons on small and random events. Yesterday proved no exception on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- the heads of the Democrats' Senate and House campaign arms -- could barely hide their jubilation about the first Election Day in several cycles when it was their party's turn to crow. Both promised that the "playing field" of competitive races in next year's midterm elections will grow based on Tuesday's results, as more potential candidates are coaxed into the race and contributors decide to loosen their wallets. A giddy Schumer made a pledge that should probably be taken cum grano salis -- promising that his party would make a serious run at Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), a popular incumbent.

Less than an hour later, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the head of the Democratic Governors Association, likewise declared that the results indicated a clear national anti-Republican trend.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman fought back valiantly with a conference call to reporters. But for a time, the call was effectively diverted by anti-GOP interlopers who got on a call intended for invited reporters only.

The access information for the call was posted -- unbeknownst to RNC officials -- on the well-known liberal Web log DailyKos.

So, instead of simply parrying the expected questions from reporters concerning the gubernatorial losses in New Jersey and Virginia, Mehlman also found himself ear-to-ear with one antagonist who asked sarcastically: "Given the results of the election, do you think Satan has taken over the country?"

"Next question," scolded Mehlman.

Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com. The Fix, his daily politics column, can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/thefix.


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