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Carol Moseley Braun
Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.jpg
Official portrait, 1993
United States Ambassador to New Zealand
In office
December 15, 1999 – March 1, 2001
President Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Preceded by Joe Beeman
Succeeded by Charles Swindells
United States Ambassador to Samoa
In office
February 8, 2000 – March 1, 2001
President Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Preceded by Joe Beeman
Succeeded by Charles Swindells
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1999
Preceded by Alan Dixon
Succeeded by Peter Fitzgerald
Cook County Recorder of Deeds
In office
December 1, 1988 – December 1, 1992
Preceded by Harry Yourell
Succeeded by Jesse White
Member of the
Illinois House of Representatives
In office
January 5, 1979 – December 1, 1988
Preceded by Robert Mann
Succeeded by Donne Trotter
Constituency 24th district (1979-1983)
25th district (1983-1988)
Personal details
Carol Elizabeth Moseley

(1947-08-16) August 16, 1947 (age 76)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Michael Braun
(m. 1973; div. 1986)
Children 1
Education University of Illinois at Chicago (BA)
University of Chicago (JD)

Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun, also sometimes Moseley-Braun (born August 16, 1947), is an American diplomat, politician, and lawyer who represented Illinois in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999. Prior to her Senate tenure, Moseley Braun was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1979 to 1988 and served as Cook County Recorder of Deeds from 1988 to 1992. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 after defeating Senator Alan J. Dixon in a Democratic primary. Moseley Braun served one term in the Senate and was defeated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald in 1998.

Following her Senate tenure, Moseley Braun served as the United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa from 1999 to 2001. She was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 U.S. presidential election; she withdrew from the race prior to the Iowa caucuses. In November 2010, Moseley Braun began a campaign for mayor of Chicago to replace retiring incumbent Richard M. Daley. She placed fourth in a field of six candidates, losing the 2011 election to Rahm Emanuel.

Moseley Braun was the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, the first African-American U.S. Senator from the Democratic Party, the first woman to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in the primaries for the nomination by a major party, and the first female U.S. Senator from Illinois.

In January 2023, she was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as chair of the United States African Development Foundation.

Early life, education, family, and early career

Carol Elizabeth Moseley was born in Chicago. She attended public and parochial schools. She attended Ruggles School for elementary school, and she attended Parker High School (now the site of Paul Robeson High School) in Chicago. Her father, Joseph J. Moseley, was a Chicago police officer and jail guard and her mother, Edna A. (Davie), was a medical technician in a hospital. Both her parents were Catholic, and Mosley was raised in the faith.

The family lived in a segregated middle-class neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Her parents divorced when she was in her teens, and she lived with her grandmother.

Moseley began her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, but dropped out after four months. She then majored in political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduating in 1969. Moseley earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972.

In 1973, Moseley married Michael Braun, whom she had met in law school. The couple had one son, Matthew, in 1977. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1986.

Moseley Braun was a prosecutor in the United States Attorney's office in Chicago from 1973 to 1977. An Assistant United States Attorney, she worked primarily in the civil and appellate law areas. Her work in housing, health policy, and environmental law won her the Attorney General's Special Achievement Award.

Early political career

Moseley Braun was first elected to public office in 1978, when she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. She became the first African-American woman to serve as assistant majority leader in that body. As a state representative, she became recognized as a champion for liberal social causes. As early as 1984, she proposed a moratorium on the application in Illinois of the death penalty. In what became a landmark reapportionment case, Crosby v. State Board of Elections, she successfully sued her own party and the state of Illinois on behalf of African-American and Hispanic citizens. When she left the state legislature, her colleagues recognized her in a resolution as "the conscience of the House." In 1988, she was elected Cook County Recorder of Deeds, a post she held for four years.

U.S. Senator from Illinois


In 1992, angered by incumbent Democratic senator Alan Dixon's vote to confirm Clarence Thomas, Moseley Braun challenged Dixon in the primary election for U.S. Senate. She was backed by the political coalition from the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago that had previously backed the campaigns of Harold Washington and Jesse Jackson. Democratic candidate Albert Hofeld's campaign ran many anti-Dixon ads, and Moseley Braun won the Democratic primary. On November 3, 1992, Moseley Braun became the first African-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate, defeating Republican Richard S. Williamson. Moseley Braun was also the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois and the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.

Moseley Braun was a one-term Senator, losing to Republican Peter Fitzgerald in her re-election bid in 1998.

Female Senators of the Democratic Party, 1993. Top row (L-R): Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Bottom row: Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)


Moseley Braun is the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Along with Republican Edward Brooke, she was one of two African Americans to serve in the Senate in the 20th century. Moseley Braun was the sole African American in the Senate during her tenure. She was also the first woman to serve on the Senate Finance Committee.

Despite her reputation as a liberal Democrat, Moseley Braun possessed something of a centrist record on economic issues. She voted for the 1993 budget package and against the welfare reform laws passed in 1996, but on many other matters she was more conservative. Moseley Braun voted in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and lawsuit reform measures like the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (she was also among the minority of Democrats to support the even more controversial Common Sense Product Liability and Legal Reform Act of 1995). She also voted contrary to the interests of the more populist wing of the party by voting for the Freedom to Farm Act and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Like her Illinois colleague, fellow Democrat Paul Simon, she voted in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution. Moseley Braun also voted to place a nuclear spent fuel storage facility in Nevada; this move was strongly opposed by many Democrats, especially future Majority Leader Harry Reid.

On social issues, however, Moseley Braun was significantly more liberal than many of her fellow senators. ..... She also voted against the death penalty and in favor of gun control measures. Moseley Braun was one of only sixteen senators to vote against the Communications Decency Act and one of only fourteen to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. She delivered a eulogy for Thurgood Marshall in January 1993.

Moseley Braun was the subject of a 1993 Federal Election Commission investigation over $249,000 in unaccounted-for campaign funds. The agency found some small violations, but took no action against Moseley Braun, citing a lack of resources. Moseley Braun only admitted to bookkeeping errors. The Justice Department turned down two requests for investigations from the IRS.

Women were not allowed to wear pants on the U.S. Senate floor until 1993. In 1993, Senators Moseley Braun and Barbara Mikulski wore pants onto the floor in defiance of the rule. Soon after, female support staff followed their example. Later that year, the rule was amended by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope to allow women to wear pants on the floor so long as they also wore jackets.

In 1993, Moseley Braun made headlines when she convinced the Senate Judiciary Committee not to renew a design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy because it contained the Confederate flag. The patent had been routinely renewed for nearly a century, and despite the Judiciary Committee's disapproval, the Senate was poised to pass a resolution sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina that included a provision to authorize the extension of the federal patent. Moseley Braun threatened to filibuster the legislation "until this room freezes over." She also made a plea to her colleagues about the symbolism of the Confederate flag, declaring, "It has no place in our modern times, place in this body, place in our society". Swayed by Moseley Braun's argument, the Senate rejected the UDC's application to renew its patent.

In 1996, Moseley Braun made a private trip to Nigeria, where she met with dictator Sani Abacha. Despite U.S. sanctions against that country due to Abacha's actions, the Senator neither notified nor registered her trip with the State Department. She subsequently defended Abacha's human rights record in Congress. Her former fiancé Kgosie Matthews, who also served on her campaign staff in violation of U.S. immigration regulations, had been a lobbyist for the Nigerian government; Matthews would later leave the country. She paid Matthews, a native of South Africa, a salary of $15,000 a month during the campaign.

..... She also compared Will to a Ku Klux Klansman, saying: "I mean this very sincerely from the bottom of my heart: He can take his hood and put it back on again, as far as I'm concerned". Later, Moseley Braun apologized for her remarks.

U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa

Carol Moseley Braun NZ
Ambassadorial portrait

On October 8, 1999, President Clinton nominated Moseley Braun to be the United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Although her nomination ran into token opposition from her old adversary, Jesse Helms, and from the senator who defeated her, Peter Fitzgerald, the Senate confirmed her on November 10, 1999, in a 96–2 vote. She served in that capacity until 2001.

Later political involvement

Analysts had speculated that Moseley Braun was preparing for a potential run to reclaim her former Senate seat in the 2004 United States Senate election in Illinois. However, in January 2003, Braun decided against running for the U.S. Senate again.

2004 presidential campaign

Carol 2004 (1)
Moseley Braun campaign logo
Carol Moseley Braun (cropped)
Moseley Braun campaigning in Iowa

Moseley Braun announced her intention to run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in a February 18, 2003 speech at the University of Chicago Law School, launching an exploratory committee for the presidency. She had, in the days leading up to this announcement, made her first campaign-season visits to the early primary and caucus states of New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. In her announcement speech Moseley Braun declared, "It's time to take the 'men only' sign off the White House door."

When asked about her prospects of winning at the launch of her exploratory committee, Moseley Braun declared ""I have every hope and every expectation that this will be a successful effort. I'm running for president. I'm not running just to be another pretty face." Many, however, regarded her campaign to be a long shot, with many also regarding it as more of a vanity campaign then a serious effort for the presidency. Some speculation even existed that she was running to siphon black voters away from Al Sharpton's candidacy. Other speculation existed that she was running in an effort to redeem her image after her scandals as a senator and 1998 reelection defeat.

After her exploratory phase, Braun formally launched her candidacy on September 23, 2003.

Moseley Braun's campaign operation was based in Chicago and Washington, D.C., before being consolidated to a headquarters in Chicago.

Moseley Braun was the only significant female candidate running in the 2004 Democratic Party presidential primaries.

Moseley Braun made support for implementing a single-payer healthcare system a signature issue of her candidacy. Moseley Braun also raised concerns about the rising national budget deficit. Braun ran in general opposition to the measures implemented by the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11, arguing that their policies were exploiting Americans' fear after the attacks to put in place "an extreme agenda, dangerous and divisive" and to take away civil liberties. She was particularly critical of United States attorney general John Ashcroft's expansion law enforcement powers. When she launched her exploratory campaign, she positioned herself in opposition to a potential war with the country of Iraq, which would ultimately materialize months later as the Iraq War. After that war began, she would criticize president George W. Bush for how he proceeding in going to war with what she considers disregard for the United Nations, and would criticize the United States Congress for "abdicating its constitutional role" in allowing Bush to go to war.

By July, Braun had failed to release any detailed policy papers. Eric Slater of the Los Angeles Times wrote that, during the debates and forums, rather than focusing on policy, Moseley Braun largely partook in jockeying against candidates such as Sharpton and Howard Dean to appear like the candidate who stood in greatest contrast to incumbent Republican George W. Bush.

Moseley Braun's campaign strategy had placed an emphasis on hopes of performing well in the South Carolina primary. With that primary's traditionally sizable black electorate, it was seen to be a likely test of black enthusiasm for her candidacy. Moseley Braun was one of only two major black contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2004 (the other being Al Sharpton). Moseley Braun's campaign would ultimately end up focusing their efforts on the African-American and female vote, which they regarded to be her base of support.

Moseley Braun's campaign struggled to raise funds. In the first three months of 2003, she raised only $72,450 for her candidacy, less than any other notable contenders in the Democratic primary. As a consequence, she had very few professional campaign staffers. Her campaign was instead largely run by a small number of volunteers. It took until July 1, 2003, for her campaign to hire a formal campaign manager. As the race developed, she continued to trail the other candidates in terms of fundraising. By July 2003, she had only raised $214,000, continuting to be last of the nine major Democratic contenders in terms of fundraising. By November 2003, she had only raised $342,518. In total, her campaign would ultimately raise just under $600,000.

In mid-November 2003, Moseley Braun hired Patricia Ireland to serve as her campaign's new manager.

Moseley Braun never performed higher than single-digit numbers in polls for the primaries.

Moseley Braun failed to qualify for the ballot in a number of the scheduled state primaries and caucuses.

On January 15, 2004, two days after a disappointing third place showing in the D.C. primary and four days before the Iowa caucuses, Moseley Braun dropped out of the race and endorsed Howard Dean's candidacy. Shortly before Moseley Braun withdrew, her own campaign manager, Patricia Ireland, had publicly conceded that she no longer believed Moseley Braun stood any chance of capturing the Democratic nomination. Upon her departure from the race, Ron Fournier of the Associated Press wrote that, "she leaves the race after having made no impact on it, except for some bright moments in the presidential debates".

2011 campaign for Mayor of Chicago

Carol for Chicago logo
Mosley Braun campaign logo
Carol for Chicago (5478023458)
Sign for Moseley Braun's mayoral campaign

In November 2010, after Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley announced that he would not seek re-election, Moseley Braun announced she would run for mayor of Chicago in 2011. In early 2011, two potentially strong African-American candidates—U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and State Sen. James Meeks—left the race and endorsed Moseley Braun, making her the so-called consensus black candidate. This came after a discussions between Mosely Braun and the other two candidates where it was decided that Moseley Braun, with her profile as a former US Senator, ambassador, and presidential candidate, would be the strongest of the three candidates. These discussions had occurred with the involvement of Chicago African American figures such Jesse Jackson and Walter Burnett Jr.

On paper, Moseley Braun appeared likely to be a formidable contender for the mayoralty. However, a horribly run campaign and an image damaged by scandals and blunders would relegate her to a relatively paltry finish.

Moseley Braun had several difficulties with her candidacy, including a lack of funding. She raised approximately $705,000, while Rahm Emanuel raised over $15 million. While referred to as the "consensus" African American candidate, she was not receiving much financial backing or from African American politicians and community leaders, many of whom instead backed Rahm Emanuel. Only a few of the city's African-American business leaders (including Elzie Higginbottom and John W. Rogers Jr.) contributed to her campaign. She also received $25,000 from congressman Bobby Rush. With a lack of funds, Moseley Braun only was able to air a single television ad, which she ran late in the campaign.

African American politicians and community leaders also did not provide non-financial assistance to Moseley Brown's campaign effort. Moseley Braun's campaign also received no support from trade unions.

There was internal conflict within Moseley Braun's campaign organization.

Mosely Braun encountered criticism for accepting donations from individuals who had already donated the $5,000 maximum (which was instituted January 1, 2011 when the Illinois Campaign Disclosure Act went into effect)

Mosely Braun suffered from a poorly run campaign. Her campaign was plagued by gaffes, including missed interviews and an inability to give a sufficient explanation for her past financial problems. However, the most serious debacle came in a debate on January 30, 2011, when Moseley Braun accused another candidate, Patricia Van-Pelt Watkins, of "being strung out on crack" for 20 years. ..... This attack on Van-Pelt Watkins backfired and was detrimental to Moseley Braun's own candidacy. Braun's campaign, which had never gained much traction, began to bleed what support it had after she made this attack, with many former supporters fleeing to support Emanuel instead.

Moseley Braun opposed moving the city to having an elected school board.

Moseley Braun criticized frontrunner Rahm Emanuel's tax proposals, arguing that they would fail to assist poorer Chicagoans. She also accused Emanuel of having numerous times voted against Congressional Black Caucus proposals that would have assisted lower-income families.

As a candidate, Braun put an emphasis on her governmental experience and her ties to the city's black community.

On February 22, 2011, Moseley Braun came in fourth in the field of six, receiving about nine percent of the vote. In her concession speech, she remarked that her young niece could become the first female mayor of Chicago, despite the fact that Jane Byrne had already served as Chicago's first female mayor.

Subsequent activities

In the 2016 Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Maryland, Moseley Braun endorsed Donna Edwards. In the 2019 Chicago mayoral election runoff, Moseley Braun endorsed Toni Preckwinkle. In the 2023 Chicago mayoral election runoff, Moseley Braun endorsed Brandon Johnson.

In the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Moseley Braun endorsed Joe Biden. During the November 2019 Democratic presidential debate, Biden mentioned her endorsement, misspeaking and mistakenly referring to her as "the only African-American woman who's ever been elected to the United States Senate", only to be quickly corrected by his opponents, including Kamala Harris, who herself happened to be the second (and only other) African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. This gaffe of Biden's attracted significant media attention. At the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Moseley Braun was responsible for announcing Illinois' votes in the roll call. After Biden's victory in the general election (with Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate), Moseley Braun made it publicly known that she was interested in being his Secretary of the Interior. She also expressed interest in holding some other role in his administration. Biden opted to nominate Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior. In January 2023, Biden nominated Moseley Braun to be member and chair of the United States African Development Foundation.

Work outside government and politics

In 2005, Moseley Braun founded an organic products company known as Good Food Organics. Good Food Organics was the parent company of Ambassador Organics. As of 2019, the company was defunct.

Moseley Braun became a visiting professor of political science at Northwestern University in November 2016.

Personal life

In September 1998, Lauryn Kaye Valentine applied for permission to change her name to Carol Moseley Braun. Valentine cited the former senator as her hero and promised not to "dishonor [the] name". The change was made official. That December, however, Valentine put her name forward as a candidate for alderman of Chicago's 37th Ward. Before the election, a Circuit Court judge rescinded the name change, forcing Valentine to revert to her original name. Valentine was later ruled ineligible to run, as she was not a registered voter at the time because of her name changes.

In April 2007, Braun suffered a broken wrist when a mugger emerged from bushes near her front door to steal her purse. Braun resisted and fell during the struggle, fracturing her left wrist. The mugger was chased off by a University of Chicago student while his girlfriend called 911. Braun was later treated at a hospital and released. A man was later charged with the crime and was sentenced to 20 years in prison on July 11, 2008.

Braun's financial problems made headlines in October 2012 when it was revealed that her home was in foreclosure and that she had not made any mortgage payments for over a year. Before she was evicted, she sold her house for approximately $200,000 less than the amount she still owed on her mortgage loan.

Electoral history

1988 Cook County Recorder of Deeds
1988 Cook County Recorder of Deeds Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun 424,480 78.05
Democratic Sheila A. Jones 119,372 21.95
Total votes 543,852 100
1988 Cook County Recorder of Deeds election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun 1,020,805 54.32
Republican Bernard L. Stone 795,540 42.33
Illinois Solidarity Edward M. Wojkowski 62,968 3.35
Total votes 1,879,313 100
1992 United States Senate election in Illinois
1992 Illinois United States Senate Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun 557,694 38.3%
Democratic Alan J. Dixon (incumbent) 504,077 34.6%
Democratic Albert Hofeld 394,497 27.1%
Total votes 1,456,268 100
1992 United States Senate election in Illinois
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun 2,631,229 53.27
Republican Richard Williamson 2,126,833 43.06
1998 United States Senate election in Illinois
1998 Illinois United States Senate Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun (incumbent) 666,419 100
Total votes 666,419 100
1998 United States Senate election in Illinois
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Peter Fitzgerald 1,709,041 50.35
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun (incumbent) 1,610,496 47.44
Reform Don Torgersen 74,704 2.20
US Taxpayers Raymond Stalker 280 0.01%
Total votes 3,394,521 100
2004 Democratic Party presidential primaries
District of Columbia 2004 – Democratic Presidential Primary
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Howard Dean 18,132 42.65
Democratic Al Sharpton 14,639 34.43
Democratic Carol Moseley Braun 4,924 11.58
Democratic Dennis Kucinich 3,481 8.19
Democratic Others 1,340 3.15
2011 Chicago mayoral election
2011 Chicago mayoral election
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Rahm Emanuel 326,331 55.27
Nonpartisan Gery J. Chico 141,228 23.92
Nonpartisan Miguel del Valle 54,689 9.26
Nonpartisan Carol Moseley Braun 53,062 8.99
Nonpartisan Patricia Van Pelt Watkins 9,704 1.64
Nonpartisan William Walls, III 5,343 0.90
Write-in Others 34 0.01
Turnout 590,391 41.99

See also

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