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Members Not Seeking NAACP Job

Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus expressed doubt last week that any of their colleagues will soon depart Capitol Hill to fill the vacant NAACP presidency, even as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) acknowledged he has been approached about the post.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), himself an icon of the civil rights movement, said Thursday it would be “almost impossible to get anyone in this [House] to leave to take over” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, noting that his colleagues “are enjoying their work” as members of the new Democratic majority.

NAACP President and CEO Bruce Gordon announced his departure March 4, and the civil rights organization is now looking for his successor.

“We will immediately begin a widespread search for a replacement, examining candidates from the non-profit, corporate, and civil rights communities and others, seeking a new President who can insure our mission of social justice advocacy strengthens and grows as we approach our Centennial anniversary in 2009,” NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond said in a statement.

The Baltimore-based organization’s National Board of Directors, which has named General Counsel Dennis Hayes as the interim president, had yet to finalize its search committee Friday, according to a spokesman.

But at least one lawmaker, Cummings, acknowledged last week that he already has been approached to consider the post.

“It’s very flattering that people would even give me that kind of consideration,” Cummings said.

The Maryland lawmaker succeeded then-Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) in the state’s 7th district seat in 1996, when Mfume himself became the NAACP’s president. When Mfume stepped down from the NAACP in 2005, Cummings was an early contender as his replacement.

But Cummings, a former CBC chairman, said he intends to remain on Capitol Hill.

“I am very excited about what I’m doing here,” he said, citing his seats on the Armed Services, Oversight and Government Reform, and Transportation and Infrastructure panels. “I’m able to do a lot of things that I like doing.”

Other lawmakers who are considered by their peers to be potential candidates — including Lewis — said they had not been approached last week but echoed Cummings’ sentiments.

“I love being in Congress,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who noted she has been approached about previous vacancies. “I don’t think there’s a better place to be, even the NAACP, our most revered civil rights organization.”

Both Reps. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), a former CBC chairman, and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) also confirmed they are not interested in changing careers.

Members did say, however, that a lawmaker or two could still move over to the NAACP in the future.

“You have members of the CBC who are part of the struggle and also products of the struggle,” said Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.). He added that he believes the next NAACP leader must be not only politically active but also someone who has the respect of current civil rights leaders. “There are so many members of the black caucus who would be outstanding.”

But Meek and other lawmakers suggested at the same time that the responsibilities of the NAACP presidency could prompt some Members to shy away from the post.

“You’ll be far busier than a Member of Congress,” Meek asserted, noting that the CEO’s duties include national fundraising and membership.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) agreed. “That’s a very difficult, time-consuming job,” he said.

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