Seven-term Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), mother of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was defeated in that state’s Democratic primary on August 3. State Sen. Hansen Clarke will represent the party in November’s general election.

Kilpatrick’s defeat is seen as collateral damage from her son’s missteps. Kwame Kilpatrick is currently serving a prison sentence for violating his probation after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with an investigation of a sex scandal involving his former chief of staff. He’s now under investigation again on 19 federal charges including mail fraud and wire fraud.

Before Kwame Kilpatrick’s conviction and during his re-election campaign, Cheeks Kilpatrick aggressively defended her son.

“He didn’t just get up in here by just coming,” she said at campaign event for her son as reported Fox 2 News in Detroit. “Don’t let nobody talk about y’all’s boy. Too many people died for us.”

Since her son’s conviction, Cheeks Kilpatrick has been largely silent and many political insiders in Michigan believe her vocal support for her son scuttled her chances at earning an eighth term.

“You can say, ‘Yeah, she’s a mother being loyal to her son,’ but she went beyond being a mother to her son. She just castigated anybody who said anything critical about her son,” said Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics and host of a weekly call-in show on News Talk 870 in Detroit. “She clammed up as her son got deeper and deeper into trouble and tried to pretend like the whole scenario didn’t exist. It just wasn’t enough.”

However, not everyone in the city thinks the treatment she’s received has been fair. Detroit native Vivian West told the Detroit Free Press that Cheeks Kilpatrick should not be punished for things her son did. “I feel like a lot of people don’t want to vote for her because of what her son and ex-husband are going through,” said West. “But she’s always been an excellent congressperson. Why upset the apple cart? You can’t pick your relatives. I’ve got some relatives I’d like to get rid of, too.”
Cheeks Kilpatrick’s ex-husband, Bernard Kilpatrick, faces an investigation for his role in a pay-to-play city hall scheme.

Cheeks Kilpatrick’s defeat comes at a bad time for the Congressional Black Caucus. Longtime representatives Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) are both preparing for Congressional trials on ethics violations.

It’s also another hit to Congressional incumbents, as Cheeks Kilpatrick is the fourth member of the House to lose a re-election bid this year. The others were Alan Mollohan, (D-W.Va.), Parker Griffith (R-Ala.), and Bob Inglis, (R-S.C.).

According to Ballenger, Clarke is overwhelmingly expected to defeat his Republican opponent in the general election.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO