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Large Black Voter Turnout Helped Usher In New House Leadership

Strong voter turnout among African Americans helped Democrats pick
up five U.S. House of Representatives seats and avoid any net losses in
the Senate in the November 3 election.

Although they usually account for about 5 percent of voters in
mid-term elections, African Americans may have represented 10 percent
or more of all voters this year, experts say. Most also voted
Democratic, helping to prevent Republicans from making widely expected

“It appears there is enthusiasm and hope in the African American
community that we haven’t seen before,” said Rep. Maxine Waters
(D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). “I’m very
pleased that we increased turnout of African Americans, and it made a
significant difference.”

By focusing on investigations and impeachment votes, the Republican
House may have angered many voters, including African Americans, she

“It helped to spur the Black vote,” Waters noted.

African Americans reserve the right to disagree with President Bill
Clinton or question his judgment, she said, but most also found fault
with the partisan attacks of independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

“We recognize unfairness when we see it,” Waters said. “It’s so central to our struggle.”

Republicans retained control of Congress, but the GOP leadership
will look much different in 1999. Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), chairman
of the powerful Appropriations Committee, is expected to take over as
House Speaker following the departure of Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.),
who resigned and is largely blamed by fellow Republicans for the
party’s loss of seats in the House. As appropriations chairman,
Livingston helped broker some of the White House/Congress budget deals
of the past three years — including some that substantially increased
federal student aid.

However, Livingston has not taken a major role in higher education
policy. As a legislative sponsor, he is perhaps best known for fighting
for the rights of fraternities. After a few colleges sought to
eliminate fraternities and sororities to promote campus health and
safety, Livingston proposed legislation to protect the rights of
members to organize and associate freely.

On most issues, the Louisiana lawmaker is a staunch conservative.

“Based on what we know about Mr. Livingston, he doesn’t look too different from Newt Gingrich,” Waters said.

Should Livingston become speaker, as expected, Rep. C.W. “Bill”
Young (R-Fla.) would be next in line to become chairman of the
Appropriations panel.

Elsewhere, most major lawmakers that work on higher education won
re-election, including Reps. William Goodling (R-Pa.), chairman of the
House Education and the Workforce Committee, and William Clay (D-Mo.),
a CBC member and the senior Democrat on that panel.

The Senate’s only female African American lost her bid for a second
term, however. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.), gained 47 percent of
the vote in her race with Republican state senator Peter Fitzgerald, a
millionaire who had criticized Moseley-Braun on campaign finance
practices, among other issues.

When it convenes in January, the new Senate will have 55
Republicans and 45 Democrats. The new House will have 223 Republicans,
211 Democrats, and one independent.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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