Veteran state Rep. Robert Clark, Mississippi's first black legislator since Reconstruction, defeated three white opponents today to win the Democratic nomination for one of the state's five congressional seats.
Clark, 52, a former schoolteacher who runs a furniture business in Ebenezer, carried more than half of the 21 counties in the realigned 2nd District. If elected in November, he would become the state's first modern-day black congressman.
Five-term Democratic Rep. David R. Bowen had announced that he would not seek reelection after the realignment.
With all precincts reported, Clark had 36,257 votes or 57 percent while Pete Johnson, a Clarksdale banker, was second with 14,298 votes or 22 percent. State Sen. Ollie Mohamed of Belzoni had 8,802 votes or 14 percent, and state Rep. Ed Jackson of Cleveland had 4,463 or 7 percent.
Clark, a member of the Mississippi House since 1967, will face Republican attorney Webb Franklin, 40, of Greenwood in the November general election. Franklin, a former Democrat, resigned as a circuit judge to enter the race.
Franklin scored an easy victory over his lone GOP opponent, black civil rights figure Clennon King, who was not regarded as a contender because he abandoned his campaign and went to Miami.
In other primaries, veteran Democratic Reps. Jamie L. Whitten, 72, and G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery, 62, defeated little-known challengers to win renomination in the 1st and 3rd Districts.
Fran Fawcett, 32, of Oxford, a former television news announcer in Memphis, Tenn., won the GOP nomination in the 1st District, defeating Amory pharmacist Van East. No primary elections were held in the other two congressional districts.
The congressional and Senate primaries had been scheduled in June but were delayed because of a reapportionment fight. The dispute resulted in new boundary lines being ordered by a federal court panel, including a new black-majority district in the Mississippi Delta.
While blacks claim a slight edge of nearly 54 percent in total residents of the new district, they still trail whites in voting-age population there.
Bowen told reporters he felt he could have won but decided it was a good time to step down, saying he had planned to give up the seat after serving another term or two.