African-American Republicans had a tremendous resurgence in 2010, 32 ran for the House of Representatives; two won — Former Congressman Allen West and Senator Tim Scott. 2014 could be an opportunity for new African-American legislators to make further inroads.
Since the appointment of Tim Scott to the Senate and the failed re-election of Congressman West, the House has been without African-American Republicans. At least five nominees are hoping to fill that vacancy.
The most promising nominee is Mia Love, who looks to all but certain to win the congressional seat of her 2012 opponent, the retiring Rep. Jim Matheson in Utah. Love, the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, lost her 2012 bid by less than 800 votes out of more than a quarter-of-a-million cast. The seat is overwhelmingly Republican, R+14 according to the Cook Political Report. Without the popular incumbent Democrat, it is a guaranteed pick up for Mrs. Love and will make her the first female African-American Republican elected to the U.S. House in history.
Another candidate is Will Hurd, running in Texas’ massive southwestern 23rd district against one-term Democrat Pete Gallego. Hurd failed to win an outright victory against former Congressman Canseco by .06 percent in the primary. If he wins the May 27th runoff, he will be the party’s nominee in a swing district. Currently rated as R+3, the district supported Mitt Romney in 2012 and Barack Obama in 2008. The former undercover CIA officer would be running in a majority Hispanic district, but one that sometimes votes Republican.
Some other black Republican House candidates are Niger Innis, running in Nevada’s 4th; former NFL linebacker Garry Cobb in New Jersey’s 1st; and Micah Edmond in Virginia’s 8th who have tougher races, running in very competitive primaries and much more Democratic districts.
If any of these nominees are successful in gaining seats in the House, it will be the first time since 1881 that Republicans had African-American representatives in both chambers.
In the Senate, T.W. Shannon, the former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives is making a bid for the open seat being vacated by Senator Tom Coburn. He is in the midst of a primary fight as the conservative movement-backed candidate against the establishment’s Rep. James Lankford. Shannon has the endorsement of nearly every single member of the Oklahoma statehouse, Sarah Palin, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz, Erick Erickson, and Sen. Mike Lee. Currently, he’s polling closely behind Lankford, but the race is likely to go to a runoff in August.
Growing the base of identifiable black figures in the GOP is important to the party as a whole outside these individual races. Despite the failure of President Obama’s policies to alleviate unemployment in the African-American community, President Obama could count on more than 90 percent of their vote in the 2008 and 2012 election. The African-American vote is the Democrats’ firewall and Republicans must break it up.
The GOP has a unique advantage; Democrats have put the priorities of illegal immigrants and teachers unions ahead of the interest of the African-American community, even when their interests clash. Democrats treat black voters like mistresses: they don’t work for their vote, their interests, or their future. If Republicans can show up and offer them something else, other than open-ended rhetoric on the free market, they may be able to make some traction.
Losing an entire population by 9-to-1 is devastating to the national party and although no one is claiming that the GOP can win over a majority of black voters, it needs to stop losing them in such sweeping landslides. Some state-level candidates have done very well with African-Americans in the past: Chris Christie — 21 percent, Michael Steele – 25 percent, Arnold Schwarzenegger — 27 percent, George Voinovich — 32 percent, Dino Rossi — 37 percent, Jodi Rell — 40 percent, Mike Huckabee — 48 percent.
Younger African-American men have already showing signs that they are willing to give the GOP a chance, 19 percent voted for Mitt Romney over the President Obama in 2012. Now the party has to do the work to expand those numbers and give them a permanent home in the party of Lincoln.
Prominent African-American conservatives including Princella Smith, Ken Blackwell, and Anita MonCrief have created the Black Conservative Fund a PAC dedicated to electing black candidates, providing the financial backing that many have lacked in the past.
With more prominent elected Black Republicans, a fresh policy agenda addressing real needs on education and jobs, and as Chris Christie put it “just showing up,” could help to win over new voters. Republicans can no longer just play defense if they want to regain control of the White House in 2016, they’re going to have to start playing by a new rulebook.
Ryan James Girdusky is a writer and consultant based out of New York City. You can read more of his work at RyanGirdusky.com or follow him on twitter @RyJamesG.