With West out, one black GOP lawmaker left
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.”
Last man standing: Rep. Tim Scott