Monday, August 31, 2009

Politics: Jack E. Robinson III

TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of the interesting side stories brought up by the death of Massachusetts senator Edward M. Kennedy was the bizarre candidacy of Jack E. Robinson III against him in 2000. Robinson was a businessman who could finance his own campaign. However, as an African-American and the son of a former president of the Boston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), on paper he looked like far from the average Republican, perhaps someone who might at least make a dent in the hold Kennedy had on the minority vote in the state.

Unfortunately, Robinson was not an average candidate in terms of his personal past as well. He tried to preemptively clear the air by releasing an 11-page personal history with his explanations of all of his potential shortcomings, from allegations of drinking and driving, carrying illegal weapons, sexual misconduct, and even plagiarism. The document caused Republican governor Paul Cellucci (later an ambassador to Canada) to drop support for Robinson before he had even been a declared candidate for a week.

Robinson took a call from WBUR radio reporter Toni Randolph to talk about Cellucci's action as he was driving a rented car in Boston on 21-March-2000. Admittedly, though, it was not Robinson but a 17-year old driver that was at fault as that teenager drove his car into the opposing lanes and collided with Robinson. The sounds of the collision could be heard on the radio, and then Robinson stated, "I just got in an accident... Boy, everything is happening to me. Cellucci is withdrawing his support, and people are sliding across the highway at me." The report filed by Randolph was aired on NPR's now-canceled Weekly Edition, and a low-fidelity audio file is still available (it was 2000--did you expect a high bit rate?).

In typical Massachusetts media fashion, Robinson was even accused of leaving the scene of the accident (even though it wasn't his fault) as he tried to find a safe place to park farther down the street. After that week, nobody took his candidacy seriously. In November, Libertarian Carla Howell would come within 30,000 votes of Robinson, with both of them mustering about one-sixth of the votes that went to Kennedy.

Robinson did not give up on politics following the loss to Kennedy in 2000, perhaps a bit too attached to the example of Mitt Romney, who had lost to Kennedy in 1994 and went on to win the Governorship in 2002. He ran for Secretary of the Commonwealth in 2004 and for the 9th district Congressional seat in 2006, losing soundly in each case with about a quarter of the vote. There were no car accidents to report in either of those races, however.

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