Cynthia Ann McKinney (born March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia), is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia's 4th district. She served from 1993-2003 and was re-elected to the same office in 2005.
First Congressional Career
Cynthia McKinney's political career began in 1986 when her father, state representative Billy McKinney, submitted her name as a write-in candidate for a state house district. She received approximately 40% of the popular vote, despite the fact that she lived in Jamaica at the time with then-husband Coy Grandison (with whom she had a son, Coy McKinney, now aged sixteen). In 1988 she ran for the seat herself and won, thus making the McKinneys the first father and daughter to simultaneously serve in the state house.
Cynthia McKinney, who is viewed by many as a very controversial political figure, immediately challenged House rules requiring women to wear dresses by wearing slacks. In 1991, she spoke out against the bombing of Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, causing many legislators to walk out in protest at her remarks.
In 1992 McKinney was elected as the first Congresswoman from the newly-drawn 11th District, a black-majority district stretching from Atlanta to Savannah. However, in 1995 the district was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court because the boundaries were unfairly based on race (approximately 64 percent of McKinney's constituents were black). McKinney angrily responded to the ruling by asserting that it was a racially discriminatory ruling given the fact that the Supreme Court had previously ruled that Texas' 6th district, which is 91 percent white, was constitutional. Her district was renumbered the 4th and redrawn to take in almost all of DeKalb County. The new 4th was no less Democratic than the old 11th, and McKinney was easily reelected from this district in 1996, 1998 and 2000.
In 2002, McKinney was defeated in the Democratic primary by Denise Majette, then a DeKalb County judge. McKinney protested the result in court, claiming that Republicans in the mostly-Democratic district had participated in the Democratic primary to vote against McKinney in revenge for her anti-Bush administration views and implied voter fraud. However, Georgia's election laws do not require voters to claim a political party when they register to vote, thus they can participate in whichever primary election they choose. In addition to alleged "cross-over" Republican vote, many Democrats were unhappy with statements made by McKinney and her father, whom many perceive as being the true architect of his daughter's political career and her chief benefactor. When asked by a reporter why his daughter had such poor luck with finding endorsements from other prominent Democrats, Billy McKinney angrily claimed that "Jews have bought everybody. Jews. J-E-W-S". The comments were broadcast nationwide.
Return to Congress
Throughout 2003 and 2004, Cynthia McKinney toured America and much of Europe speaking of her defeat, her opposition to the Iraq War, and the Bush administration. Although speculation suggested that she was considering a run as the Green Party's nominee for the 2004 election, McKinney declined in January, 2004 to focus on regaining her congressional seat.
Majette declined to run for reelection to the House, opting instead to become a candidate to replace retiring Georgia senator Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat that often sided with the Republicans. McKinney instantly became the favorite in the Democratic primary. The primary was seen as the top race in this district, which is so heavily Democratic that nomination is tantamount to election. Those who opposed McKinney were unsuccessful in uniting to support an opponent in the crowded field that could later defeat her in a runoff election.
McKinney barely received enough votes to avoid a runoff, thus all but assuring her return to Congress. However, her fellow Democrats refused to give her back her seniority.
Initially, McKinney was low-key upon her return to Congress. However, on July 22, 2005, McKinney held a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to address outstanding issues regarding the September 11, 2001 attacks. The day-long briefing featured family members of victims, former intelligence agency officials, noted authors, and other experts who collectively gave a searing indictment of the 9/11 Commission and its recommendations. First to speak were the Jersey Girls, an organization of 9/11 widows who endeavored to see the 9/11 Commission formed, only to conclude that it was "an insult to the intelligence of the American public," as member Lorie Van Auken described it in her opening statement. The four morning panels were meant to address flaws, omissions, and the lack of historical and political analysis in the commission's report. Three afternoon panels critiqued the commission's recommendations in the areas of foreign and domestic policy, and intelligence reform. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial maintained that the purpose of the event was to discuss whether or not the Bush administration was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and was timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the 9/11 Commission's reports, expressing surprise that McKinney was once again taking on the issue which was widely believed to have been the one that cost her her House seat, yet the Journal-Constitution refused to publish McKinney's reply.
McKinney's interest in 9/11 relates specifically to her opposition to excessive government secrecy. She has submitted to Congress two versions of the same bill, the "MLK Records Act" (one in 2003, the other in 2005,) which, if signed into law, would release all currently sealed files concerning the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. These records were sealed in 1978 and are not due to be declassified until the year 2038. Likewise, the 9/11 Commission has sealed all the notes and transcripts of some 2,000 interviews, all the forensic evidence, and both classified and non-classified documents used in compiling its final report until January, 2009. Documents relating to the death of rapper Tupac Shakur, which McKinney has taken an active interest in, would also fall under this bill. In a statement, McKinney explained her reason for the bill: "The public has the right to know because he was a well-known figure. There is intense public interest in the life and death of Tupac Shakur." Critics assert she is merely pandering to her power base. Others point out that legislation demanding release of records is a more direct route than the tedious process and limited scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Rep. McKinney has been an outspoken advocate of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and an outspoken critic of the government's slow response. Despite the Democratic Party leadership's call for a boycott, McKinney has been an active participant in the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, sitting as a "guest" along with only a few other Democrats. In questioning Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, McKinney referred to a news story in which the owners of a nursing were charged with negligent homicide for abandoning 34 clients who died in the floodwaters, McKinney asked Chertoff: "Mr. Secretary, if the nursing home owners are arrested for negligent homicide, why shouldn't you also be arrested for negligent homicide?"
Another incident in the aftermath of Katrina attracted such attention that McKinney responded with a bill in Congress. Thousands of fleeing evacuees were turned away by the Gretna Police at when they attempted to cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge between New Orleans and Gretna, Louisiana. HR 4209, introduced by McKinney on November 2, 2005, would temporarily deny Federal assistance to the City of Gretna Police Department, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, and the Crescent City Connection Division Police Department in the State of Louisiana for their maltreatment of individuals seeking aid during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, and for other purposes.
Also introduced on November 2, 2005 is the Congressional Black Caucus' Omnibus Bill (HR 4197) to provide a comprehensive response to the Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Katrina, the second title of which was submitted to the Congressional Black Caucus by McKinney and seeks a Comprehensive Environmental Sampling and Toxicity Assessment Plan, or CESTAP, to minimize harm to Gulf Coast residents from the toxic releases into the environment caused by the hurricane. On October 25, 2005, McKinney had already introduced a longer version of this language as the first of two titles in the CESTAP Bill (HR 4139), the second title of which would establish household inspections for mold and other toxins in the wake of Katrina. (The title dealing with mold inspections was first introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vermont) as Title XI of S 1836.)
At the request of McKinney, the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, chaired by Thomas M. Davis held a previously unscheduled hearing titled "Voices Inside the Storm" on December 6, 2005. The first of two panels attracted national attention when several African-American evacuees from New Orleans stated their belief that the disaster relief planning for the hurricane and flood would have been better if the victims had been mostly white, and reported nightmarish stories of their treatment at the hands of police and military authorities. Broadcast live on C-SPAN, the hearing received national media attention (including stories from MSNBC, Yahoo! News, Democracy Now! and an AP story that was republished widely). On December 7th, MSNBC's Brian Williams in an interview with former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Herbert Walker Bush, Bush Sr. said "I would discount somewhat the charge" of racism, in response to a video clip from the December 6th hearing.
On November 18, 2005, McKinney was one of only 3 (out of 406) to vote for a H.R. 573, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter. Hunter, a Republican, offered this Resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq in place of Rep. John Murtha's H.J.Res. 73, which called for redeployment "at the earliest possible date." In her prepared statement, McKinney accused the Republicans of "trying to set a trap for the Democrats. A 'no' vote for this Resolution will obscure the fact that there is strong support for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq ... In voting for this bill, let me be perfectly clear that I am not saying the United States should exit Iraq without a plan. I agree with Mr. Murtha that security and stability in Iraq should be pursued through diplomacy. I simply want to vote yes to an orderly withdrawal from Iraq."
Most recently, a bill introduced by Rep. Cynthia McKinney has been signed into law. First introduced in 2001, H.R. 2297 will establish the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area in Georgia and will provide for a management plan. Under the new law, the use of Federal funds to acquire land or an interest in the land of the area is prohibited.
For more on Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney visit: