Former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is preparing to run for her old 4th Congressional district seat on the Green Party ticket.
McKinney was defeated by 4th district incumbent Hank Johnson in 2006 after serving six terms in Congress and has kept a low profile since returning to Atlanta from the San Francisco area where she moved in 2007.
Since February she has made a few public appearances in her old district but stayed low key with her plans. She filed paperwork April 2 with the Federal Elections Commission declaring her intention to run.
Tracked down at her mother’s home Thursday by a reporter from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McKinney declined to comment and ordered the reporter off the property.
Last week she was recruiting volunteers to collect the 18,860 signatures of registered voters she’ll need by August 6 to get on the newly redrawn 4th district ballot, according the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
A lightning-rod political figure, McKinney, 55, was defeated in 2006 by Johnson after a much-publicized run-in with a U.S. Capitol police officer and her accusations that the Bush administration may have known beforehand about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In 2008 she won the Green Party nomination and ran for president. McKinney and running mate Rosa Clemente were on the ballot in 31 states, but not Georgia.
The party had hoped with McKinney's name recognition to get at least 5% of the vote so the party would automatically be on the 2012 ballot in all 50 states. She got less than 1 percent of the vote.
In the summer of 2009, McKinney made international news for her involvement in the Free Gaza Movement, during which she was detained after a ship she was aboard carrying humanitarian supplies was stopped by the Israeli Navy for allegedly running a blockade.
Back in Atlanta, McKinney’s associates in the Green Party – which she joined in 2007 after quitting the Democratic Party – have closed ranks in support.
Her former Green Party campaign manager, Hugh Esco, said Wednesday he could not confirm McKinney plans to run, as first reported by the Atlanta Progressive News. “I would call that report a wild rumor,” said Esco.
Frank Redding, a friend of McKinney’s late father, former state legislator Billy McKinney, who has known Cynthia since childhood, said Thursday he’s not surprised to hear she’s back in her old district and making the rounds for a political rebirth.
“She’s been around and been more visible and I believe she’s going to make a run, though I’ve not had a personal conversation with her,” said Redding. “But anywhere she runs in South Dekalb County she’s going to be viable.”
The new District 4 contains about two-thirds of DeKalb County including the cities of Stone Mountain and Scottdale, and portions of Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale counties.
Other former supporters question whether McKinney has the resources or enough remaining clout and presence in the district she left six years ago to get the signatures needed to get on the ballot.
“That’s going to be the real challenge for her,” said John Evans, who handled McKinney’s last congressional campaign, in 2006.
Jan Selman, a Decatur political consultant and former McKinney supporter who backed Hank Johnson in 2006, said she still supports Johnson, and doubts most voters will "get off the rail" and vote Green Party, no matter the candidate.
She said she would never underestimate McKinney. "She's a very determined person," said Selman. “But we need someone in the 4th district with tenure. Hank’s been in there three terms. I can’t see that changing right now.”