A big issue in the Arkansas Senate primary is Blanche Lincoln’s relationship to the African-American community. She has been going around the state touting her “A” rating from the NAACP. But someone has a problem with that – the President of the Arkansas NAACP.

“If I had to grade her even on health care reform she definitely wouldn’t get an A, she’d maybe get a C minus,” said Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas NAACP.

Charles pointed out that throughout the months of legislative wrangling, Lincoln was far from an enthusiastic supporter of the health care reform bill. She was one of the last Democrats to fall in line to vote for the Senate version of the bill. As the campaign season has heated up, Lincoln has proudly spoken about her efforts to block the public insurance option from being a part of the Senate bill, even incorporating that message into her first television ad.

This is about a lot more than health care. African-American leaders in Arkansas are upset that no federal judge appointments for African-Americans have been recommended by Lincoln over the past year. Lincoln responded by recommending an African-American US Attorney candidate for Arkansas, but that candidate, Carlton Jones, has since withdrawn, amid the tensions between Lincoln and the community.

Carlton Jones, chief deputy prosecutor in Arkansas’s Miller and Lafayette counties, removed himself from consideration for Western District of Arkansas U.S. Attorney late last month after meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the job in Washington on Feb. 18 [...]

Lincoln and Pryor have been under increasing pressure from African American leaders in Arkansas to recommend black judicial candidates, which may explain why Jones’s name turned up on their list for a federal judgeship. Congressional Quarterly reported that members of the state’s black legal association met with the senators last month to express their disappointment with the lack of black candidates for federal judicial posts in the state.

Jones said he did not know how he ultimately ended up back in the pool of candidates for the U.S. Attorney nomination. The White House has worked hard to recruit black U.S. Attorney candidates, especially in the South, and may have played a role in putting Jones back in play for the prosecuting position. A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, did not respond to requests for comment.

And these tensions do not come from nowhere. In fact, as has been well-documented in Arkansas and the subject of past campaigns, Lincoln lobbied on behalf of the Republic of Tranksei, a “black homeland created by the white South African government during apartheid,” according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Bantu Holomisa, the leader of Transkei, was accused at the time of dismembering political enemies, and was kicked out of the ANC by Nelson Mandela. Lincoln worked as a lobbyist for Tranksei in 1991 and 1992. Here’s an excerpt from a 1998 article from the Democratic primary campaign:

But this Transkei thing is really something. I don’t know what exactly. But something. Last week the Arkansas Times reported that as a lobbyist in Washington in 1991-92, Lincoln worked as a foreign agent for this South African apartheid puppet, the Republic of Transkei. Blanche first said she didn’t remember, which I could believe, and then when confronted with documents said she had spent one day introducing on Capitol Hill a man named Bantu Holomisa. She described him as a good guy and Mandela lieutenant who has wrested control of this homeland set aside by South African segregationists.

Coulter went on black radio with a commercial touting his commitment to civil rights and accusing Lincoln of having worked for apartheid forces from South Africa. Lincoln went on black radio stations with a commercial calling the accusation a “ridiculous lie,” so just as the debate started, one of Coulter’s aides handed me and other reporters a packet containing documents showing that Lincoln had participated in 1991-92 in at least a dozen teleconferences on Transkei issues, one of the major ones being the United States’ trade sanctions against South Africa and its puppet republics.

Lincoln eventually acknowledged her work for Tranksei.

So this anger from the state head of the NAACP doesn’t come from nowhere. It remains to be seen whether it will become a major issue in the campaign.

African-Americans make up 15% of the Arkansas population and a larger portion of the expected Democratic primary electorate.