Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Running for the U.S. Senate

BRAUN: There was three of us who were looking at running. One was a prominent socialite. Another was a federal judge, former federal judge and me, and I was the only one who had run for office before and so the people — as the organizers came together the women, primarily from the National Organization for Women and from other women's groups got behind my candidacy and, you know, at the time, it was, "Oh, she doesn't really have a snowball's chance," but I was out there and I was running and running hard and that's how it got started and it wasn't with a real concern that I was going to win or lose, just that I was just trying to do the right thing.

BOND: And that really is the Year of the Women, after the first Year of the Women you mentioned a moment or so ago, because all over the country women are energized by the [Clarence] Thomas nomination and the votes for him and many many women are elected. Let me tell you something I remember about that race because I was in Georgia at the time. It's in Illinois. I couldn't follow it very closely, and I knew [Alan] Dixon to be kind of a hack, but I thought his concession speech was the most gracious thing I had ever heard in my life, and I was so surprised because I didn't think it would come from him. I was just taken aback by it. I think I wrote him a little congratulatory letter which is something I wouldn't do. It was just — it was the decent thing to do from someone whom you didn't expect —

BRAUN: Graciousness.

BOND: Yes, at all.

BRAUN: Well, I'll tell you something that's interesting because as that race — what happened in that race and, again, people think, as a friend of mine said, folks think you were born at the Democratic Convention, but obviously all the politics has a history to it and what happened was that Dixon was challenged by not only — I was not the only challenger. There was a rich trial lawyer who just started off saying, "I'm going to spend five million dollars of my own money to beat Alan Dixon," and he got into the race and it was funny. I think Dixon was enough of a traditional public servant or politician, to use the word, that he felt more? I think he was more offended by the candidacy of this person who just decided, woke up one morning and said "I'm going to be the United States Senator," than somebody who he saw had come up through the ranks and even during the —

BOND: And he would respect that.

BRAUN: Exactly. And so even during the debates — we had a couple of debates — and this other guy was coming on like a pit bull, and I wouldn't engage in ad hominem attacks, and for me it was about the issues and so it was in a funny kind of way during the course of the debates I did not challenge him as a hack. Rather, I challenged him on the issues and stayed there whereas this other guy just kept coming at him, and it was negative campaign, negative campaign, and I think to Dixon that made a big difference and as between the two of us, I think he might've seen something. Got no small pleasure out of the fact this guy just blowing five million dollars of his own money.

BOND: Well, it was just so striking. We were watching on TV and the TV's going back and forth from these incredible victorious scenes at your campaign headquarters. I remember you standing in the middle of the crowd and doing something with your arms and [it's] really electric in Georgia to see this happening, and then they switched to him and he's trying to concede and the people in the audience, his audience, are angry and they're saying, "No, no, no," and he makes this gracious statement. I was just blown away. It was just a fabulous combination.

BRAUN: Real theater, huh?

BOND: Yeah, it was real theater, real theater. You don't see that all the time in politics.