With Maryland voters choosing to keep Republican Gov. Larry Hogan for a second four-year term, Black Republicans see this as a possible sea change in politics and values.
It’s unclear exactly how many Blacks are registered Republicans in the overwhelmingly Democratic state, but one Republican leader said there’s more than what most people think.
“There’s a lot of people who are afraid to admit they’re Republican” in order to avoid confrontations, said Torrey Snow, a member of the state’s Black Republican Council. “That’s a common refrain. The BRC has a message that you’re not alone. We’re here. Come find us.”
At least 10 registered Black Republican candidates ran for office in the November election, Snow said. Only two incumbents, Talbot County Councilman Corey W. Pack and Harford County Councilman Curtis Beulah, emerged victorious.
Two other Blacks — Brandon Cooper of Prince George’s County and Tony Campbell of Baltimore County — were chosen last month as the state Republican Party’s first vice chair and second vice chair, respectively.
Cooper and Campbell will be among a list of guest speakers at the council’s legislative reception Thursday, Jan. 24 at the House of Delegates in Annapolis. Snow said details will be outlined on two of its policy objectives this year, criminal justice and education reforms.
The council’s been around for several years as a coalition to the state Republican Party. On its website, the party requests residents to sign a petition and support Hogan’s crime package that includes 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers to help deter violent crime in Baltimore City. In addition, legislation to increase the minimum sentence to 10 years for repeat offenders who use a gun to commit a violent crime.
The council seeks to become more visual to not only work with other Republicans, but also with community and civil rights organizations such as the NAACP.
“We are focusing on building patience and the ability to listen,” said Snow, 35, who last year ran unsuccessfully for an Anne Arundel County Council seat. “All Republicans are not evil. It is kind of our role to say, ‘we do it this way.’ Unification is a huge part of these dialogues.”
Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said common backgrounds can also allow Blacks with different political perspectives to communicate.
“We can talk about issues in a language that the people I grew up with [and] who may be voting Democrat are used to,” he said. “Something that was centered around the community and family and faith. We can talk to those things people understand and appreciate.”
With Hogan becoming Maryland’s first Republican governor to win re-election in 64 years and conservative Blacks in political leadership positions in the state, former Republican Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele sees this as a gradual change among Marylanders.
“It says a lot about how the state has matured, politically, and how the state has grown and how it’s continuing to grow,” said Steele, who was the state’s first Black elected to the position and served with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich from 2003 to 2007. “Unfortunately, we are in a time where we have some Republicans who, like my momma would say, ‘Are showing their behind.’”
The Party of Lincoln
According to the Black Republican Council’s website, part of its mission is to “help Black Americans see their natural alliance with the Republican Party.”
That goal stems from Abraham Lincoln as a Republican who fought to save the Union. His party sought to ratify the 13th Amendment to end slavery, as well as the 14th Amendment that guaranteed equal protection under the law.
A major historic change for the party happened when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Lyndon B. Johnson won the presidency and millions of Black voters followed the Democratic Party’s signature horse ever since.
It’s also noted in a book on Black conservatism written by Leah Wright Rigueur titled, “The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power.”
Here’s an excerpt from the book: “As politicians shaped the GOP from top down, ordinary white city dwellers and suburbanites from all backgrounds and income levels along with an army of conservative activists, influenced by the direction of the GOP from the grass roots, reacting to changing social and culture norms, the liberalism of the civil rights movement and the radicalism of Black Power. In short, the GOP is a party whose conservatism, to quote Robert Smith and Hanes Walton, seems to make it ‘virtually impossible for Blacks, given their history and condition,’ to accept.”
Some historical and current Black Republicans are Frederick Douglass; the late Sen. Edward Brooke III of Massachusetts, who was elected in 1966 and the first Black elected after the post-Reconstruction era; retired four-star Army Gen. Colin Powell; and Alveda King, a former Georgia state representative and niece of late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is the only Black conservative in the Senate and Rep. Will Hurd of Texas the lone Black Republican in the House. Former Rep. Mia Love of Utah lost her re-election bid.
President Donald Trump leads the GOP where a divided Congress remains split on a myriad of policies, including taxes, immigration and funding for border security at the heart of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown.
Trump and his connection to the Republican Party continue to receive criticism from Democrats and even some conservatives for his constant social media posts on Twitter.
“I am not Donald Trump. I’ve never met Donald Trump,” Snow said. “Trump has not made life easy [on] any of us. At the end of the day, we try hard to define ourselves as Marylanders and we acknowledge we have limited impact over what happens on the national level.”