Blackmon Says Race Played A Role In Election Defeat

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Barbara Blackmon said Thursday the color of her skin is the reason she did not win in Tuesday's election.

"It is my belief, as well as the belief probably of over 300,000 voters of this state, that if my pigmentation were different, I would be the lieutenant governor of this state,'' Blackmon said at a news conference at her campaign headquarters in Jackson.

The comment was greeted with loud applause from those gathered for Blackmon's first public appearance since being defeated by incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck.

Blackmon and Democratic treasurer candidate Gary Anderson both lost their bids to become Mississippi's first black statewide official since Reconstruction. The election culminated the bitter lieutenant governor campaign with Tuck getting 61 percent of the vote to Blackmon's 37 percent in unofficial returns.

"We had hoped that in 2003 - in the 21st century - that Mississippi was ready for a qualified, experienced, African American and it is still our hope that Mississippi will rise to the occasion in the very near future,'' Blackmon said.

"That's the only way our state is going to progress - when all of its citizens have an opportunity to offer themselves to public service and the voters of the state recognize character, ability and experience,'' she said.

Anderson was the first black appointed director of the Department of Finance and Administration. He's also a former deputy director of the state's economic development agency and former bank vice president. His Republican opponent Tate Reeves, 29, is a bank portfolio manager. Reeves is white.

Merle Black, professor of politics and government at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., said race seemed to be more of an issue in the state treasurer contest.

"It's not a high profile race, but if it comes down to the crunch, then the white voters may prefer the white Republican candidate, even though the white Republican candidate is less qualified,'' Black said. "That's where race could clearly be a factor.''

Blackmon disputed claims that she lost because she challenged Tuck to join her in signing an affidavit swearing she had never had an abortion. The move was roundly criticized in newspaper editorials and by supporters of Tuck.

"We're the only candidate who brought forth plans for this state and again, you can reject the messenger and seek whatever reason that makes you feel comfortable when you can sleep at night and you can look at yourself in the mirror,'' she said.

"But we know that we brought forth real plans and solutions and if that was the only issue, Ronnie Musgrove would be the governor of this state, Gary Anderson would be treasurer,'' she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)