Republicans aim to elect more blacks to office
Elect a black to Congress. This is the goal of the Republican Party as it seeks to attract black voters. Twelve black Republicans are running for the US House, and three are seeking statewide office, in November.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
President Reagan, who received only 10 percent of the black vote in 1980, told those attending the recent Washington convention of the National Black Republican Council that he supports the party's plans. Other influential Republicans - Vice-President George Bush, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada, national chairman Richard Richards, and Edwin Meese III, chief counselor to Mr. Reagan - echo that support.
The black candidate with perhaps the best chance to win is Lucy Patterson, a sociology professor at Bishop College in Dallas. She is campaigning in Texas' remapped 24th District. Her opponent is white incumbent Milton Frost.
Black Republicans say their party can sponsor a successful candidate.
''We can make it in politics outside the Democratic Party,'' says Clarence Pendleton, a conservative business entrepreneur and the Reagan-appointed chairman of the US Civil Rights Commission. ''Liberals like to call Republicans names, thinking this will change things. Blacks can help themselves and elect a black Republican to Congress.''
A basic GOP weakness from the minority view, however, is that the party has no black with national appeal. Except for Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts, who served two terms in the US Senate from 1967-79, no black Republican has been elected to Congress in 48 years.
The last black Republican member of the US House was three-term Rep. Oscar DePriest of Chicago. He was swept out of office in the 1934 elections, when black voters turned their backs on the GOP to support Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats. Melvin Evans served as delegate from the Virgin Islands 1979-81.
The current House count is 17 black representatives and one delegate, all Democrats and all members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Seven GOP hopefuls are seeking seats now held by Black Caucus members. In Brooklyn James Smith is running for the New York 12th District seat now held by retiring Rep. Shirley Chisholm. He faces Democrat Major Owens. Others challenging black Democratic incumbents are: Bill White vs. US Rep. William Clay of Missouri; Kevin Sparks vs. US Rep. Gus Savage of Illinois and Donald Cheeks vs. US Rep. Cardis Collins of Illinois; Leonora Jones vs. Rep. Parren Mitchell of Maryland; Alan Shatteen vs. US Rep. Louis Stokes of Ohio; and T. Milton Street vs. US Rep. William H. Gray III of Pennsylvania.
Four black Republicans, in addition to Mrs. Patterson, face white opponents: Shirley Gissendanner of San Diego, who defeated former football star Mike Garrett in the primary; Timothy Lee of Newark, N.J.; Paul Jones of Atlanta; and George Grimsley of Jacksonville in a new Florida district.
One Republican rated a good prospect, the Rev. Perry Smith of Prince Georges County, Md., was upset in the primary. He was one of 13 black ministers in this Washington suburban area to switch from the Democrats. As a neophyte politician, he is said to have lost because of poor organization, although he received financial support from his new party.
Blacks Republicans campaigning for statewide offices include two in California: Donald French for state treasurer (he lost that race four years ago); and James L. Flournoy for comptroller. In Ohio, Virgil Brown of Cleveland, president of the Cuyahoga County Commission, is running for secretary of state.