With West out, one black GOP law­maker left

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN SHERFINSKI

DAVID Rep. Allen B. West’s Nov. 20 con­ces­sion that he lost his bid for re-elec­tion means the 113th Congress will open in Jan­uary with only one black Repub­li­can in ei­ther cham­ber — a rough end to a year when the GOP had high hopes for ex­pand­ing the di­ver­sity of its cau­cus.

Mr. West, a tea-party fa­vorite, had spent the pre­vi­ous two weeks fight­ing for a re­count in his race against Demo­cratic chal­lenger Pa­trick Murphy, but said he had crunched the num­bers and re­al­ized he would not be able to make up enough ground to hang onto his seat.

His loss leaves Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina as the sole black Repub­li­can in Congress and has the party search­ing for an­swers.

“I wouldn’t draw any cos­mic lessons from the fact that this was a dis­ap­point­ing year for black Repub­li­can can­di­dates. It was an even poorer year for black Demo­cratic House can­di­dates run­ning in non-African Amer­i­can dis­tricts,” said former Rep. Ar­tur Davis, who left the Demo­cratic Party this year and be­came a key black backer of GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney.

Repub­li­cans had four top-tier black can­di­dates in the House this year: in­cum­bents Mr. West and Mr. Scott, and chal­lengers Mia Love in Utah and Ver­non Parker in Ari­zona.

Only Mr. Scott, a first-term in­cum­bent in South Carolina, won.

In 2010, Repub­li­cans ran more black can­di­dates than they did this year, and vic­to­ries by Mr. West and Mr. Scott gave the GOP their first black law­mak­ers since 2003.

Mr. Scott told the Charleston Post and Courier last week that the GOP didn’t fail on prin­ci­ples as much as it did on the way it con­veyed the mes­sage.

“I be­lieve we were right on the is­sues, most con­sis­tently right,” he told the pa­per, but added, “per­haps we were wrong on the level of pas­sion that could be sensed in con­nect­ing with vot­ers.”

Mr. West did not go with­out a fight.

He had chal­lenged vote count­ing in St. Lu­cie County, and earned a par­tial re­count of bal­lots there over the Nov. 17-18 week­end. But that re­count ac­tu­ally showed Mr. Murphy, his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, ex­pand­ing his lead to more than half a per­cent­age point.

“I will not ask my gen­er­ous sup­port­ers to help fund a drawnout, ex­pen­sive le­gal ef­fort with lit­tle chance of success,” Mr. West said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing his con­ces­sion.

In an email to sup­port­ers, Mr. Murphy called Mr. West’s con­ces­sion “gra­cious” and the con­gress­man-elect said he will con­tinue his prepa­ra­tions to take the seat Jan. 3, when the next Congress is sworn in.

“I cam­paigned on a mes­sage that reach­ing across the aisle is as im­por­tant in this district as it is in Washington,” he said. “To those who sup­ported my op­po­nent, my door is open and I want to hear your voice.”

With that re­sult, the House’s makeup is nearly set­tled: Democrats will hold 200 seats in the House next year to the GOP’s 234, with one North Carolina race still to be de­cided. Demo­cratic Rep. Mike McIn­tyre leads Repub­li­can chal­lenger David Rouzer by fewer than 700 votes. Mr. Rouzer on Nov. 20 asked for a re­count.

Repub­li­cans took some so­lace in the fact that they elected Ted Cruz to the Se­nate, adding an­other high-pro­file His­panic to their ros­ter, which al­ready in­cludes two His­panic gov­er­nors and two In­dian-Amer­i­can gov­er­nors.

Still, the GOP is search­ing for an­swers when it comes to black vot­ers.

Pat Mullins, chair­man of the Repub­li­can Party of Vir­ginia, said the prob­lem isn’t GOP prin­ci­ples.

“I’ve sat and talked when I was in Fairfax with the NAACP — we were right there on ev­ery­thing,” said Mr. Mullins, who served as chair­man of the Fairfax County Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee from 1990 to 1996. “[The head] was pro-life, he was con­cerned about the ed­u­ca­tion his kids were get­ting, they wanted ac­cess to guns in their neigh­bor­hood, they were con­cerned about drugs, the small-busi­ness peo­ple in his com­mu­nity needed help. I mean, it was bang, bang, bang — we didn’t have a thing that we dis­agreed with at all. But we haven’t com­mu­ni­cated — and that’s what we need to talk about.”

Mr. Mullins added that the prob­lem is fun­da­men­tally deeper than sim­ply putting up mi­nor­ity can­di­dates to run.

“That, to me, is al­most con­de­scend­ing,” he said, adding that the way to reach out was through mes­sage. “It’s a phi­los­o­phy-type thing — ‘This is where we are, where are you? What do we need to do to help you out a lit­tle more?’”

That was the same mes­sage the GOP’s black can­di­dates took into their races.

Ms. Love nearly top­pled six­term in­cum­bent Rep. Jim Mathe­son in Utah, los­ing by lit­tle more than 1 per­cent, while Mr. Parker ran 4 points be­hind Demo­crat Kyrsten Sinema in Ari­zona.

Mr. Scott eas­ily won his race, lead­ing his Demo­cratic op­po­nent by more than 25 points.

Mr. Davis said Ms. Love and Mr. Parker have both left them­selves in good stead for fu­ture runs for of­fice, and he said the GOP’s model for re­cruit­ment and ad­vance­ment re­mains sound.

“Love, Parker, West, and for that mat­ter Tim Scott have all distin­guished them­selves by build­ing a ca­reer that rested on their cre­den­tials and their be­liefs, not their color; the same ob­vi­ously can be said of Condi Rice,” Mr. Davis said. “This ap­proach is a far bet­ter role model for black Repub­li­cans than be­com­ing racial spe­cial ad­vo­cates for one com­mu­nity, and it is ex­actly the model that suc­cess­ful In­dian and Latino Repub­li­cans have fol­lowed.”

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