History was made Nov. 4 when three Black Republicans swept into Congress on a tide of GOP victories. Republican leaders touted the wins as a sign of a resurgent GOP that has reopened its doors to communities of color.
“Black Republicans made history on Election night with the victories of U.S. Senator Tim Scott, Mia Love, and Will Hurd,” said Orlando Watson, the Republican National Committee’s communications director for Black media, in an e-mailed statement to the AFRO. “The magnitude of this historic moment will not be forgotten. Each elected official will be great advocates for the people they represent and help to continue growing the Republican Party.”
South Carolina residents voted to send Scott back to the Senate, where he has served since January 2013 after Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to serve out the term of former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. His election made him the first Black candidate to win a statewide race in South Carolina and the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction. Scott is also the first African American to serve in both the House and Senate.
Meanwhile, 38-year-old Love, a Mormom, became the first person of color to represent Utah on Capitol Hill and the first Black Republican woman and the first Haitian American in Congress.
And Hurd, a San Antonio native, became the first Black Republican elected in Texas since Reconstruction. The 37-year-old former CIA agent spent time undercover in Asia and the Middle East.
“It’s significant,” said Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s senior vice president for advocacy and policy, of the elections. “I think it is important that we recognize there is great diversity within the African-American community. The African-American community is not of one mind. So, it is enriching to have these different voices.”
While Love said she plans to join the majority-Democrat Congressional Black Caucus, Scott previously declined membership, and it is not clear whether Hurd will join the group. Either way, Shelton said he hopes they can all work together to address the concerns of the Black community.
“Hopefully, it will expand the ranks of solutions to issues facing the African-American community,” he said.
Dianne Pinderhughes, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, said beyond their usefulness as figureheads for the Republican Party, she cannot foresee the Black GOP lawmakers having much of an impact, citing Scott’s relative obscurity since he’s been on the Hill.
“Republicans [courted] them strategically to put a Black face on the Party,” Pinderhughes said, particularly with the fast-approaching 2016 presidential election. “Still, we’re only talking about three persons here.”