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News Archive

NAACP accused of shutting out minority candidates

October 3, 2003

BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter

Turning the tables on the nation's leading civil rights organization, three Republican Senate hopefuls accused the NAACP Thursday of unfairly excluding from a scheduled debate the only two GOP minority candidates in the race.

"What the NAACP was based upon is giving equal opportunity to African Americans to strive and reach their potential," said Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, who was born in India. "So for me, it's ironic that we're not being allowed to participate."

Kathuria, 38, and Antonio Davis-Fairman, the only black Republican vying to succeed Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), were nixed from the lineup of this Saturday's debate. That's because they placed last in a public opinion poll the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Illinois State Conference commissioned to winnow down the crowd.

The civil rights organization decided to include only the top six candidates from each party in the two-hour debate.

But Kathuria and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin) scoffed at that reasoning, arguing that the poll really showed the race was wide open. The candidate finishing first among each party's voters, Democrat Dan Hynes and Republican Jack Ryan, received just 10 percent apiece. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points, making the results one big statistical tie.

"Polling this early is bizarre and foolish," Rauschenberger said. "It just shows you that there is no front-runner."

Kathuria finished last on the GOP side with 1 percent, just behind Davis-Fairman, who got 2 percent. Half of each party's primary voters were undecided. Rauschenberger made the cut with 5 percent, but pledged to boycott the event unless Kathuria, Davis-Fairman and former state Rep. Jonathan Wright, who polled 2 percent, are allowed to participate.

Davis-Fairman did not attend a news conference with Rauschenberger and Kathuria but issued a statement saying "the NAACP snub is part of the problem. It's the white-washing of our great party."

Rauschenberger was more measured in his criticism, saying "I think the NAACP does good work and intends to do good work. I just think they're wrong on this."

"If any organization should be committed to including everybody in this debate -- particularly the emerging interests of minorities in the Republican Party -- it ought to be the NAACP," he said.

Kathuria, a physician-turned-businessman who has said he will put between $6 million and $15 million of his own money into the race, said the civil rights organization initially invited him to participate but then changed the guidelines after a television station signed on to broadcast the event.

Organizers of the debate issued a statement saying they devised guidelines designed to be inclusive and "to provide for a healthy, meaningful and educational format to ensure the audience receives as much information as possible."

"Candidates have every right to get their message out however they choose, including withdrawing," said Iris Johnson, president of the NAACP Illinois State Conference. "This will give more time to the other participants."

The Rev. Dorris Robert, president of the Chicago Southside Branch of the NAACP, defended the organization's tradition of inclusion.

"Most certainly the NAACP is not discriminating against those candidates," he said. "It definitely is not the fact that the NAACP is by any means anti-Republican or anti-black or anti-black Republican or [anti-]Indian."

The other Republicans who did make the cut -- former investment banker Ryan, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis, retired Gen. John Borling and businessmen John Cox and Andy McKenna -- showed little interest in joining Rauschenberger.





 
 












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