McBride makes history as first black to win countywide election

Friday, August 6, 2004

Deborah McBride didn't set out to make local political history.

But on Tuesday night, she may have done just that in her quest to become the Cape Girardeau County public administrator.

McBride is believed to be the first black to win a Cape Girardeau County primary election.

In his decades in local government, Cape Girardeau County Clerk Rodney Miller said he couldn't recall a black candidate ever winning a county primary.

Other longtime county employees couldn't remember a county primary won by a black candidate either.

Blacks have been elected in the city of Cape Girardeau. J.J. Williamson, elected in 1994, was the first black on the Cape Girardeau City Council, and the Rev. William Bird was elected to the Cape Girardeau School Board in 1996.

McBride's outcome was shocking to some -- not so much that she won, but that she beat Democratic opponent Sharla "Charlie" Harrison 71 percent to 29 percent. McBride won 35 of the 36 precincts, losing only in Old Appleton 7-6.

McBride still faces a tough general election. She not only faces an incumbent, Phyllis Schwab, but also a Republican in a traditionally conservative county.

McBride knows it won't be easy, but she said she's already stepped her campaign up a notch.

"I believe that I'm able to connect with individuals in a loving, caring way," she said. "People see me as real, and people see that I'm genuinely concerned. When people hurt, I hurt. I'm not above getting out and helping people."

McBride cited her hard work and genuine attitude as the reasons she won the primary.

"I don't think voters see me as African-American," she said. "I don't see color, either. I see people. The community has rallied behind me, blacks and whites. Just by the grace of God, He's allowed me to stand in this gap and reach out to both sides, and they're coming together, something that has so badly been needed for a long, long time."

bmiller@semissourian.com

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