Salaam: District 67 race vital to Black Belt’s future

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 20, 2002

Yusuf Salaam remains confident he will survive the latest challenge to his election as the Democratic Party nominee for the state House of Representatives District 67 race.

Salaam trailed LaTosha Brown in the June 4 Democratic primary. Three weeks later, on June 25, he edged Brown by 138 votes in the Democratic runoff.

He has since survived two appeals to the state Democratic Party Executive Committee, which certified Salaam as the Democratic nominee. He now faces yet another challenge of the election results, this time in U.S. District Court.

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Oral arguments in the latest appeal were heard Thursday in Montgomery.

With the general election just over two weeks away, those appeals have kept the ultimate outcome of the District 67 race in doubt. Republican Party nominee Mark Story isn’t even sure who his opponent is.

Neither are the voters.

Brown still contends the race was taken from her illegally because of, among other reasons, a concerted Republican crossover effort; people who voted in the District 67 race who were ineligible to vote in that race; people who voted in the District 69 race who should have voted in the District 67 race; and at least one deceased person who voted.

Salaam pointed out that none of the appeals have singled him out personally as being guilty of wrongdoing.

He contrasted the opposition he has faced in the current election with that of former Mayor Joe Smitherman’s 1988 narrow campaign victory over Cleophus Mann.

As first- and second-tier suppliers for Hyundai’s $1 billion manufacturing plant in nearby Hope Hull begin making decisions about where they plan to locate, Salaam said the need to put aside racial and political differences has never been more important for the job-starved Black Belt.

Salaam said the current controversy over an annexation study commissioned by Mayor James Perkins Jr. illustrates the depth of the divide that exists in Dallas County.

Perkins contends the study was intended only to study the feasibility of Selma annexing various areas, one of which is the Valley Grande area to the north. Valley Grande residents learned of the study only after it had been completed. A series of well-attended community meetings was called and the study &045;&045; and Perkins &045;&045; roundly condemned.

Despite the mayor’s insistence that the study in no way indicates any pending action on the part of the city, a determined number of Valley Grande residents are calling for the area to incorporate as a means of fending off any possibility of annexation.

Salaam said he feels that the annexation controversy merely reflects much deeper tensions that have been festering for years.

While some have attempted to paint the annexation issue as being racially motivated &045;&045; the Valley Grande area is predominately white &045;&045; Salaam said the underlying issues go much deeper than black or white.

Salaam pointed out that prior to the Valley Grande controversy, residents in the Selmont area &045;&045; which is predominately black &045;&045; had also voiced opposition to annexation. He said he opposed annexation in the Selmont case and would do the same thing in Valley Grande.

Up until recently, Salaam noted, the issue of incorporation or annexation in any part of Dallas County had not been a burning issue. For most residents, he contends, it took a back seat to other, more immediate problems.