Category: Racial Politics

Election Wrap-up: Black Republicans Go to Congress

The 2010 election cycle is notable for the Republican Party tidal wave that saw the Democrat Party lose control of the House of Representatives, and have diminished majority in the Senate. The Wave brought with it some diversity in the GOP’s Congressional delegation: there are now two African American Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The last time there were two African Americans Republicans in Congress was in 1995-96, when J. C. Watts represented the 4th District of Oklahoma and Gary Franks represented the 5th district of Connecticut.

This year’s breakthrough occurred thanks to the election of black Republicans in Florida and South Carolina. Allen West won his race for congress in southern Florida, while Tim Scott won his race in the Charleston and northern coastal area of South Carolina.

Allen West won in Florida’s 22nd District, which includes parts of Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and other portions of Broward County and Palm Beach County. These are north of Dade County, which contains the city of Miami.

West’s district is 75% white, 15% Hispanic, and just 5% black. He beat out two-term Democratic incumbent Ron Klein by a margin of 54.3% for himself to 45.7% for Klein. The two had faced each other in the 2008 election; in that election, Klein beat West by 55% to 45%.


Allen West, Congressman-elect, 22nd District-Florida

West has something of a reputation for being controversial and combative. The 2010 Almanac of American Politics spoke of West in its discussion of the 2008 election:

…former Army Lieutenant Col. Allen West… retired after a 2003 incident in which he fired a gun near the head of an Iraqi detainee in an effort to make him reveal information about plans to attack U.S. troops. West’s explanation was that he had “sacrificed” his military career “for the lives of my men.”

Also during the 2008 campaign, West charged that a request for an interview from Al-Jezeera was actually part of a kidnapping plot.

The website TalkingPointsMemo.com said this about West:

Without a doubt, Allen West is going to become a new star all around — adored on the right, and a bogeyman of the left. First of all, West built his conservative political career on a particular event from his own military service — when he tortured an Iraqi policeman, and was proud of it. Since then, his attitudes on foreign policy haven’t changed much: “A nation goes to war against an ideology. We are against something that is a totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology, and it is called Islam.” The incident ended his time in uniform, and launched him on a track to Republican politics.

Also during this past campaign, West faced questions over his campaign’s ties to a criminal biker gang, The Outlaws. And at one of his events, a group of leather-clad men ejected a Democratic video tracker, as West got the crowd cheering. (It is unclear whether these same security men were Outlaws. In addition, West has pointed out that he could not possibly be an Outlaw himself — they do not accept African-Americans as members.)

It remains to be seen if West will this interesting once he gets on to the mundane tasks of representing his district in Congress, although being a black Republican will surely get West some media attention no matter what he does.

DID YOU KNOW: South Florida now has three African American representative in the Congress: West; Alcee Hastings, who represents Florida’s 23rd District; and newly-elected Fredrica Wilson, of Florida’s 17th District. The 17th District seek was previously held by Kendrick Meek. Meek ran for the U.S. Senate this year, and lost in a three-way race (that included outgoing Florida governor Charlie Christ) to Marco Rubio.
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Tim Scott, Congressman-elect, 1st District-South Carolina

The other successful Republican African American candidate for U.S. Congress is Tim Scott. Scott will be representing the 1st District of South Carolina. This includes much of the Charleston metro area, although the heavily black parts are in the nearby 6th District. The 6th District is represented by James Clyburn, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Clyburn is the current House Majority (Democratic Party) Whip, which is one of the leadership positions among House Democrats; however, with Republicans taking over the House, his role may change. We'll see.
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Republican Scare Tactics, Then and Now

Fear is one of more common themes in political advertisements. Consider this political ad from 1949, which was seen in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area:

I think this speaks for itself. It almost makes the Willie Horton ads from the 1988 presidential campaign seem tame.

Note the little girl’s doll:

So… who’s the Republican bogeyman for 2010? This poster was recently (October 2010) seen in Shreveport, Louisiana:

Obama as the bogeyman, 2010.

Boo.

(Hat tip to Dailykingfish.com for the image.)
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NOTE: This picture at the top is from the excellent book, One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris. Harris was a photographer who worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, which was one of the nation’s top black newspapers.

The book contains photographs taken by Harris from the 1940s through the 1960s. Black Issues Book Review said this about Harris and the book:

One Shot Harris is pure soul. Though Harris photographed people living in poverty, most of his photos break away from the all-too-familiar images that oftentimes represent blacks during hard times. Instead, Harris focused on local folk–proud at work and at home–along with numerous celebrities to convey cultural pride. He took particular pleasure in highlighting The Hill District, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where many African Americans flocked seeking employment and entertainment.

“What I’d like for readers to take away from this book,” says writer Stanley Crouch, “is that Harris shows that these black communities, regardless of all stereotypes, were as civilized as any community in the entire western world.”

The book contains an essay by noted writer Stanley Crouch, and a biography of Harris by African American photography scholar Deborah Willis. Highly recommended.

Political Miscellany 11/6/09: Run-off Elections in Atlanta and Houston

Atlanta Mayoral Race Results in Runoff Election

The much watched Atlanta mayoral race is not over yet. Mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed will go head to head in a run-off election on December 1, after neither gained the 50% of the vote needed to win the election outright on November 3rd.

Norwood, an at-large member of the Atlanta city council, got 45% of the vote. Reed, who is a Georgia state senator, came in second place with 38% of the vote. Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders was third with 14% of the vote in an eight person race.

Mary-Norwood
Atlanta City Councilwoman and Mayoral Candidate Mary Norwood

This election has become notable because of the racial dynamics involved. Norwood is white, and if she wins, she will be the first white mayor of Atlanta in 36 years. The city is roughly 56% African American, 36% white, and 5% Hispanic. Although race is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, Norwood is popular throughout many parts of the city, and is seen as having a good chance of winning the run-off.

Kasim-Reed
Georgia State Senator and Atlanta Mayoral Candidate Kasim Reed

In the November 3rd election, Norwood did very well in the white areas of Atlanta, and had some pockets of black support throughout the city as well. Reed did well in southwest Atlanta and in predominantly black areas of northwest and west Atlanta.

The big questions going into the runoff are, who will the supporters of 3rd place finisher Lisa Borders vote for? And, how many people will come out to vote in December? As reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution,

In 2001, when Shirley Franklin first ran for mayor, 41 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Tuesday, only about 24 percent of registered voters showed up. In many black areas away from Reed’s stronghold in southwest Atlanta, voter turnout was extremely low. At the polling station of the Central United Methodist Church on Mitchell Street on the West Side, only 4.63 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. In many southwest Atlanta precincts, more than 30 percent of registered voters turned out.

Low turnout would probably be least favorable to Reed.

Houston Mayoral Race Run-off

The mayoral race in Houston, Texas, has also resulted in a run-off election, to be held on December 12.

The Houston mayoral race has been notable for the diversity of the candidate pool. The leading candidates going into election day on November 3rd were City Councilman Peter Brown, a white Democrat; Harris county Education Trustee Roy Morales, a Hispanic Republican; City Controller Annise Parker, a Democrat, who is openly gay; and former City Attorney Gene Locke, an African American Democrat.

Houston-mayor-Locks,-Parker-Morales-Brown
Several of the candidates in Houston’s November mayoral election: Gene Locke, Roy Morales, Annise Parker, and Peter Brown. Locke and Parker will be in the December run-off election.

Parker and Locke received 31% and 26% of the vote, respectively, and are headed to the runoff.

If Locke wins, he will be Houston’s second African American mayor. If Parker wins, she will be the city’s first openly gay mayor, and the first such mayor of as large a city as Houston.

Political Miscellany @ 11/4/2009: Is the Obama Coalition “Portable” to Other Democratic Races?

Right after Obama’s presidential election win last November, I made this comment:

Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries…

Too Early to Tell:

Black Voters: They were huge this election. Blacks were 13% of the total vote, up from 10% in 2000 and 11% in 2004. That helped make the difference in close elections for several states.

The question is, can they be depended on in future elections? Or will their turnout drop without Obama at the top of election ballots?

I think a lot more work needs to be done to make black voters a dependable election force, in close elections or elections in the South. Because if they’re not a dependable political force, that lessens their power and influence in the long run.

It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote turns out for the Georgia Senate runoff election between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin. Martin has no hope of winning if black voters stay home; we’ll see if they sit this one out.

In the aforementioned Georgia Senate race, Jim Martin did wind up losing, and low black turnout was a factor.

Yesterday, Republicans won the governor’s election in New Jersey and Virginia. In both cases, the young and black voters who were key to Obama’s election success were not decisive in their support for the Democratic candidate.

Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press made these comments:

In another troubling omen for Democrats, the surveys also showed that more of the Virginians who turned out on Tuesday said they supported Republican John McCain in 2008 than said they backed Obama. That suggests the Democrats had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his diverse coalition.

A loss in Virginia could suggest that the diverse coalition that Obama cobbled together last year in Virginia and elsewhere — blacks, Hispanics, young people, independents and Republican crossovers — was a one-election phenomenon that didn’t transfer to the Democratic Party when Obama wasn’t on the ballot.

I share Sidoti’s concern, although I disagree with her comment that the Obama election win was a one hit wonder in terms of pulling together what I call the “Obama coalition” of young, black, Hispanic and independent voters.

Witness, for example, 38-year old Democrat Anthony Foxx in the Charlotte, North Carolina mayoral election. Voters in the city ended more than two decades of Republican leadership in Charlotte Tuesday by electing Foxx, who is the city’s second African-American mayor and the youngest in memory. Foxx won a close race, getting roughly 51 percent of the vote over Republican John Lassiter in unofficial tallies.

Foxx benefitted from a strong black turnout. African Americans are 35% of Charlotte’s population. The Democrats need to find and promote more candidates like him, who appeal to diverse constituents.

The bottom line is, if the Democrats are going to win “the Obama way,” they need to embrace the kinds of voters that put Obama into office. Failure to do so is perilous. Consider these comments from the Washington Post, concerning the election campaign in Virginia governor’s race:

Senior (Obama) administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.

A senior administration official said (Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh) Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”

A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Obama, (outgoing Democratic governor Tim) Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path.”

And it goes without saying that black voters can’t afford to be apathetic or unengaged simply because certain kinds of candidates aren’t running. Not everyone who runs for political office is exciting or charismatic. And sometimes it is about voting for the lesser of two evils. Black folks need to be willing to come out to the polls even in those kinds of situations.

In 2008 Elections, Voter Turnout for Young Blacks Sets Record; Exceeds Turnout Rate for Young White Voters

The 2008 election was historic in many ways. One of those was the turnout rate for young black voters.

According to a report on the election from The Pew Research Center, Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History, for the first time in American history young blacks (aged 18-29) had a higher voter turnout than young white voters:
Young-Voters-2008-Election

All told, 58.2% of eligible young voters took part in the 2008 election. This was the all-time highest voter turnout rate for young black voters.

Despite these record numbers, the turnout rate for young black voters was lower than the overall black turnout rate. The turnout rate for all black voters was 65.2%, and 66.1% for all white voters.

These are some other stats concerning young voters and the 2008 elections from the Pew Report:

• The voter turnout rate among black eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was 8.7 percentage points higher in 2008 than in 2004—58.2% versus 49.5%.

• Voter participation among white eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was down slightly in 2008 compared with 2004—52.1% versus 52.3%.

• Young Latino eligible voters increased their voter participation rate to 40.7% in 2008 from 35.5% in 2004.

• The voter turnout rate among Asian eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was up 10.5 percentage points, to 42.9% in 2008 from 32.4% in 2004. This was the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups for that age group.

Of interest, the turnout rate for young whites was slightly down form 2004. The decrease was very small, but it is a decrease. This may reflect that Republican voting in the election was down. According to a report from American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate, Republican turnout declined in 44 states and the District of Columbia and increased in only six—none by a greater amount than two percentage points.

Related Posts:
Post Election Analysis: The Myth That “They Only Voted For Obama Because He’s Black.”
In 2008 Election, Black Women Have the Highest Voter Turnout
The Color of the Young Vote, 2008

In 2008 Election, Black Women Have the Highest Voter Turnout Rate

The Pew Research Center has recently released a report on voting in the 2008 election titled Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History. As indicated by the report’s title, the big finding was that this election featured best-ever turnout numbers for non-whites, such as African Americans and Hispanics.

The report, which looks at voting by ethnicity and gender, discloses a surprising statistic: black women had the highest voter turnout among all all groups in the 2008 election. This is noted in the following chart:
Voter-Turnout-by-Gender-and-Race

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Factoid: Black State Legislators in 2009

There are now a record 628 African Americans in the legislatures of the 50 states, according to the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year there were 622 Africans Americans state legislators.

A list with the count of African Americans in each state legislature is at the web site for the Conference of State Legislatures. I have prepared this edited version of the list:

Count and Percentage of Black State Legislators, 2009 (Sorted by Percentage of Blacks in the Legislature {% of Total Seats})
black-legislators-all21

Some comments:

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