The rise of black Republicans

It's a big story this year, but you don't hear much about it

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I bet you haven't heard of Tim Scott, Allen West or Ryan Frazier. If they were Democrats, I might lose that bet.

But they're not. Mr. Scott, Mr. West and Mr. Frazier are three of the 14 black candidates running for Congress as Republicans this November. Thirty-two black Republicans ran in the primaries.

Most of the 14 are running all-but-hopeless races against black Democratic incumbents in black majority districts. But Mr. Scott, running in South Carolina, is a virtual cinch to win. Mr. West (Florida) and Mr. Frazier (Colorado) are in races that are judged tossups.

If all three win, that would be a post-Reconstruction record. The largest number of black Republicans to serve together in the House in the last century is two, J.C. Watts (Oklahoma) and Gary Franks (Connecticut) between 1995 and 1997. There haven't been any since Mr. Watts retired in 2003.

One might think the resurgence of black Republicans, coming as it does at a time when a black Democrat is president, would rate more than a feature story or two in the national media. But that would conflict with the liberal meme that Republicans are racist.

Many liberals also say Republicans are anti-immigrant, even though Hispanic Republicans are poised to win a Senate seat in Florida (Marco Rubio) and gubernatorial races in New Mexico (Susana Martinez) and Nevada (Brian Sandoval).

Nine Hispanic Republicans are seeking election to the House. Four -- Bill Flores and Quico Canseco in Texas, Jaime Herrera in Washington state and David Rivera in Florida -- are even-money or better to win.

The black Republican candidates (12 men and two women) are impressive people. I'm most impressed with Mr. West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who was a hero to his troops in Iraq.

Their stories are similar. Most were raised in poverty or near-poverty by a parent or parents who instilled in them conservative values. Most have been working hard since they were children. Half the men are military veterans.

Charles Lollar, who is running against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in Maryland, is typical of this bunch. Mr. Lollar worked his way through college bagging groceries, then joined the Marines. He's currently a major in the Marine Corps Reserve. He's a general manager for a facility services corporation and a former chairman of the Charles County Republican Central Committee.

Since he is running against the second most powerful Democrat in the House in a strongly Democratic district (political guru Charlie Cook rates it D+11), Mr. Lollar is given little chance to win in November. But he shares with Mr. Scott, Mr. West, Mr. Frazier and Bill Randall (a retired Navy master chief petty officer who is running against Rep. Brad Miller in North Carolina) the distinction of being a black candidate in a white majority district.

Of the 39 black Democrats in the House, all but two represent districts where blacks are a majority or plurality. One other black Democratic contender is running in a white majority district. So in this election, Republicans are running more blacks in white majority districts than the Democrats are. Shouldn't that be taken into consideration when accusations of racism are being hurled about?

Accusations of racism against Republicans are a staple of Democratic politics because Democrats need to keep blacks on the plantation to remain viable nationally. "Young people and minorities are all the president has left," the National Journal headlined its story on a poll released Wednesday.

Barack Obama got 96 percent of the black vote in 2008. If "only" 80 percent of blacks routinely voted Democratic, it's hard to see how Democrats could win in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Carolina or Florida.

The most interesting datum to me in the National Journal/Pew poll is that just 76 percent of blacks approve of the job President Obama is doing. And a tracking poll Sept. 24 by the conservative PJTV indicated 35 percent of likely black voters either strongly or somewhat support the tea party.

It could be the increased number of black Republicans running for office and their increased acceptance by other blacks is due in large part to Mr. Obama. His election represented the pinnacle of black hopes within the Democratic Party. His disappointing performance in office is causing more than a few to consider alternatives.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The (Toledo) Blade ( jkelly@post-gazette.com , 412 263-1476).


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