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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Georgia -- 05

Lewis Faces Primary Bout

Georgia Rep. John Lewis is being criticized by both of his Democratic challengers for not attending a debate scheduled for tonight in Atlanta. However, the bigger news is that Lewis has Democratic challengers.

Officially the senior chief deputy majority whip, unofficially one of the most respected members of Congress, Lewis is heavily favored to win the July 15 primary and represent the Atlanta-based Fifth District for a twelfth term. However, his initial endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president over Barack Obama won criticism and attracted at least a few challengers from his own party.

Lewis was a leader in many facets of the Civil Rights Movement and has consistently been one of the most liberal members of Congress -- both reasons for the dearth of credible challengers Lewis has faced since entering the House in 1986 in such a Democratic district. This year, though, two community activists, Markel Hutchins and state Rep. "Able" Mabel Thomas, are hoping to use Lewis's endorsement of Clinton as ammo to prove that the 68-year-old lawmaker is out of touch with his constituents, who an overwhelming majority of voted for Obama in the February 5 primary.

Lewis was not the only high profile member of the Atlanta black community to support Clinton. Baseball great Hank Aaron and Andrew Young, the former U.N. Ambassador, Atlanta mayor and Civil Rights leader also endorsed her, while New York Rep. Charlie Rangel served as one of Clinton's top cheerleaders. By the end of February, though, Lewis officially switched his endorsement to Obama, saying: "Something's happening in America, something some of us did not see coming."

Thomas, who entered the race May 1, suggested Lewis should "just get out of the race and let a new generation come forth," and that his support for Clinton showed "that he is out of touch, and did not see the movement -- and he is a movement man," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lewis's response was terse: "People talk about change. I am change."

The Journal-Constitution is backing Lewis, issuing their endorsement last week: "Few did more than Lewis to help Obama -- and America -- arrive at this moment. And few have done more to move the nation forward on its journey toward 'a more perfect union.' Lewis still has more work to do, and he needs to be in Congress to get it done."

If successful in getting through the primary, Lewis will run unopposed in the general election for a fourth straight time.

-- Kyle Trygstad