Democratic Party leaders, including blacks and Hispanics, yesterday disputed the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's contention that blacks may have to consider breaking with the party and said the party is the only possible political channel for blacks and other minority groups.
"The only way for blacks, Hispanics and women to influence politics in this country is through the Democratic Party," said Colorado state Sen. Polly Baca, a Hispanic and a national party vice chairman.
"Hispanics went through that with La Raza Unida 15 years ago and found that minorities lose by forming third parties. They don't work when you have a majority of voters who don't consider themselves minorities," she said.
On Sunday, Jackson criticized the party leadership for allowing Illinois state comptroller Roland Burris, a black, to run for party vice chairman even though Mayor Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Ind., was endorsed by the Democratic National Committee Black Caucus. Burris won.
Four years ago, the DNC seated Hatcher, the Black Caucus' choice, without a contest. Further denial of blacks' wishes, as happened with Burris, will lead them to become Independents, Jackson said.
Burris shrugged off Jackson's remarks by noting that he was elected vice chairman "by the body of the Democratic National Committee" and not the Black Caucus.
"As vice chairman, I will put forth recommendations as to how we can do what we're supposed to do: elect Democrats to office, including black Democrats," he said.
"We need to build a coalition with whites so we can elect senators, including black senators, and elect a president in 1988, and anyone who is not doing that is not going about our business."
Burris praised Jackson, saying, "Rev. Jackson has done a tremendous job for the party and for the nation in energizing black voters."
Newly elected party Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr., who voted for Hatcher instead of Burris, had no comment.
Most party leaders contacted yesterday denied that Burris' election was any statement of party principle or policy.
"It was just an internal election procedure, a minor question of party structure," said Kathleen Vick of Louisiana, president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs and author of a resolution that reduced the DNC caucuses' representation on committees.
"Come election time, blacks can decide which party is most responsive. I'm not saying they don't have anywhere to go -- they can do anything they want, including staying home -- but it's not a close call with the Republicans. The record of the Democratic Party on black issues is clear," she said.
Don Fowler, a national committee member from South Carolina and chairman of the DNC rules committee, said, "Blacks have no more right to be angry than white southerners do over the election of Kirk as chairman. This is the kind of stuff that gets us in trouble."