WASHINGTON – John Kimble said he will keep fighting to give white candidates “a fair shot” in Maryland’s 4th District, even after a federal appeals court dismissed his complaint that the congressional district is racially gerrymandered.
“I will appeal because I hate to lose,” said Kimble, 44, whose suit claimed that district boundaries drawn in 2002 “diluted the Caucasian voters of Montgomery County.”
Political observers say Kimble has a daunting fight.
“He probably has two chances — slim and none,” said Barry Rascovar, a columnist for The Gazette newspaper. “Mr. Kimble’s chances are not good.”
But long odds have never deterred Kimble before.
He has run repeatedly in the 4th District, despite overwhelming losses each time to Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Mitchellville, an African American.
Kimble, who is white, first ran against Wynn in 1996, winning just 15 percent of the vote. He got 14 percent of the vote in 1998 and 13 percent in 2000. In 2002, after district boundaries were redrawn, he got just under 21 percent of the vote. He ran last year, but did not get out of the Republican primary.
What he lacked in votes, Kimble made up for in headlines. In his 1996 bid, he offered to pose nude for Playgirl magazine, and in 2000 he recruited Wynn’s ex-wife, Jessie, for ads that said Wynn “left me for a white woman.”
Kimble now calls the Jessie Wynn episode a “calculated risk that was wrong” and speaks highly of Wynn, who he calls a good person.
Still, he blames his losses not on his campaign tactics but on the racial makeup of the district, where blacks outnumber whites almost 2-to-1. The district spans Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
“There’s no way for a Caucasian man to win in this district,” he said.
Kimble sued in 2002, arguing that the “bizarre shape” of the 4th District came from gerrymandering designed to exclude large numbers of white voters. He said the district should have an equal number of whites and blacks.
But a federal district court dismissed the case. It called Kimble’s evidence “insufficient” and noted that African Americans made up a smaller percentage of the 4th District after redistricting than they did before.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling Tuesday.
But Kimble will not give up. “It’s absolutely a case that has merit,” he said Thursday. He said he will ask the full circuit court to consider his case, and if he is rejected there he will appeal to the Supreme Court.
“I just want to be treated equal,” said Kimble, who is representing himself in court. “Everyone wants a fair shot. Why can’t the white guy be the congressman? I would have fought to keep the crime down.”
A Wynn spokeswoman declined comment on the suit, except to say the gerrymandering “charges are baseless.”
John McKinnis, who beat Kimble in the Republican primary in 2004, said the perennial candidate has “made a mockery of our district.” McKinnis, who is white, said voting reflected the district’s ideological makeup — heavily Democratic — and not its racial composition.
While he vows to continue the fight, Kimble has set his sights beyond the 4th District: He said he is now eyeing a run for Sen. Paul Sarbanes’ seat in 2006. There are better odds for a white candidate in that race, Kimble said, since Maryland is still predominantly white.
“I try not to let myself to be beaten down,” he said. “I’m not afraid to butt heads.”
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