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.

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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Political Miscellany 6/13/08

The Obama campaign has been facing an onslaught of unsubstantiated smears. One of the most ridiculous is that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and that he changed his middle name (from, perhaps, Mohammed to Husein?). This led one web site to display a copy of Obama’s birth certificate. The Obama campaign has now created a website to address these malicious rumors: www.fightthesmears.com.

Some black Democrats in NYC who supported Hillary Clinton for president are catching grief. The Brooklyn Ron blog notes that Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn will be facing significant opposition from “writer and hip-hop culture exponent Kevin Powell.”

In Louisiana, Donald Cravins, Jr., an African American State Senator from the southwestern part of the state, appears ready to run for Congress against Republican incumbent Charles Boustany in the race for the state’s 7th Congressional district.

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Political Miscellany 6/3/08

A lot of black politicians supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, and that could put their careers at risk. Now that Clinton is on the cusp of losing the nomination race to Barack Obama, it’s being reported that she’s asking Obama to help her peeps out:

In addition to seeking Obama’s help in raising money to pay off some $20 million-plus in debts, Clinton is known to want Obama to assist black officials who endorsed her and who are now taking constituent heat, including, in some cases, primary challenges from pro-Obama politicians.

Speaking of mending fences, an LA Times article talks about how Clinton will need to repair her relationship with black New Yorkers in the aftermath of her election race with Obama.

Even as she continues her longshot presidential bid, Hillary Rodham Clinton faces a political rift in New York, where black leaders say her standing has dropped due to racially charged comments by her and her husband during the campaign. African American elected officials and clerics based in New York City say Clinton will need to defuse resentment over the campaign’s racial overtones if she returns to New York as U.S. senator.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, who represents Harlem, said constituents recently phoned him because they wanted to demonstrate outside Bill Clinton’s Harlem office against comments by the former president.

Belated congratulations to Karen Bass. Bass has become the first black woman to lead a state legislature, by virtue of being selected as Speaker of the California State Assembly. She assumed her duties on May 13, 2008.

Bass is from the 47th District of California, which includes many parts of Los Angeles county, including Westwood, Culver City, and Baldwin Hills. She is the vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, and has commissioned a report to research the basic demographic profile of Black Californians including the basic social and economic conditions. The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.

We wish her the best in her groundbreaking role.

Did you know? Only seven African Americans had previously been selected as head of a state legislature since the Reconstruction:
• Cecil A. Partee (D-Chicago), President of the Illinois Senate (1971-73; 1975-77)
• S. Howard Woodson (D-Trenton), Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, 1974-75
• K. Leroy Irvis (D-Pittsburgh), Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1977-79; 1983-89)
• Willie L. Brown. Jr. (D-San Francisco), Speaker of the California Assembly (1981-95)
• Daniel T. Blue, Jr. (D-Raleigh), Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives (1991-94)
• Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles), Speaker of the California Assembly (2002-04)
• Emil Jones, Jr. (D-Chicago), President of the Illinois Senate (2004-present)

Boyce Watkins of BlackProf.Com has an interesting piece titled Barack Obama Election Advice: Black Denunciations that Just Might Do the Trick. It talks about how Obama has had to play the “denounce/renounce/reject” game because of comments made by people he knows or has known.

As Boyce puts it,

Barack Obama is a nice guy, and I really want to see him have the chance to become president. After all, it appears that we’ve decided that having the first African American integrated into the highest office in the land is more significant than anything we must sacrifice in order to make that happen.[…]

So, I put together a list of suggested denunciations that can keep Senator Obama out of trouble in this campaign. He’s already denounced several black religious leaders and abandoned his church of the last 20 years, so he might as well get rid of anything else that might keep him from having a chance to receive complete validation from America. Black children should learn a lesson from all this: give up whatever you must in order to become successful. You are not quite good enough by being who you are, so you would be wise to disown all threatening aspects of your culture.   ”Mainstream” acceptance (translation: working at a predominantly white university, corporation or media outlet) is what makes you important in this world.  Don’t you forget that.  You can come back and work with black people if you can’t get a job anymore.

1) Medgar Evers…
2) Martin Luther King…
3) The other black “rabble rousers” …

And the list goes on. I think Watkins is going overboard on this. It seems like he’s equating Obama’s criticisms of Rev Wright and Reverend Phleger with being a denunciation of black people and black culture in general. That’s a real stretch.

PS, Obama has invoked the name and message of Rev Martin Luther King, Jr in several of his speeches.