32 African Americans run Congress as Republicans

At least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.

The House has not had a black Republican since 2003, when J. C. Watts of Oklahoma left after eight years.

But now black Republicans are running across the country — from a largely white swath of beach communities in Florida to the suburbs of Phoenix, where an African-American candidate has raised more money than all but two of his nine (white) Republican competitors in the primary.

Party officials and the candidates themselves acknowledge that they still have uphill fights in both the primaries and the general elections, but they say that black Republicans are running with a confidence they have never had before. They credit the marriage of two factors: dissatisfaction with the Obama administration, and the proof, as provided by Mr. Obama, that blacks can get elected.

“I ran in 2008 and raised half a million dollars, and the state party didn’t support me and the national party didn’t support me,” said Allen West, who is running for Congress in Florida and is one of roughly five black candidates the party believes could win. “But we came back and we’re running and things are looking great.”

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.

Many of the candidates are trying to align themselves with the Tea Partiers, insisting that the racial dynamics of that movement have been overblown. Videos taken at some Tea Party rallies show some participants holding up signs with racially inflammatory language.

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

Still, black Republicans face a double hurdle: black Democrats who are disinclined to back them in a general election, and incongruity with white Republicans, who sometimes do not welcome the blacks whom party officials claim to covet as new members.

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