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Number Of Black Gop Candidates Is Shrinking

Thu., Oct. 24, 1996

GOP dreams of electing more black Republicans to Congress are fizzling this fall, with fewer running than in 1994 and none given a strong chance of winning.

Black Democrats seem likely to maintain their numbers despite U.S. Supreme Court decisions striking down race-based districts. But one of two black Republicans in Congress has a tough race.

“The number of black GOP candidates is down substantially this time,” said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political Studies, a think tank on black politics. “If blacks are moving into the Republican Party, I haven’t seen it.”

Elections records show that while a record 37 African-Americans ran in GOP primaries this year, less than half - 16 - won nomination.

Of those, none has better than long odds of winning a seat in the House. That contrasts with 1994, when 24 black GOP candidates survived the primaries and one was victorious on Election Day - Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla.

GOP officials had predicted that retired Gen. Colin Powell’s joining the party and Bob Dole’s choice of running mate Jack Kemp, who has preached reaching out to blacks, would boost African-American support.

But that optimism is withering. Black Republican voter registration has remained static at around 10 percent for years.

“It still may happen,” said Craig Veith of the GOP House campaign committee. “But this is a work in progress.”

Black conservative Alan Keyes, a former Reagan official who ran in GOP presidential primaries this year, believes the GOP isn’t committed to attracting African-Americans.

“There’s no follow-up, there’s no outreach,” Keyes said. “I sense a real lack of conviction on the part of my party to promote and encourage candidacies by blacks.”

On Election Day, Democrats look to have at least the same number of black representatives - 38 - while the GOP could lose Rep. Gary Franks, R-Conn.

The only black Democrat in trouble is Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, now in a white-majority district because of a Supreme Court ruling.

Black Democrats figure to gain a seat in Indiana, where House candidate Julia Carson is favored in a mostly white district.

If the GOP loses the House, black Democrats will be in their strongest position ever, with Reps. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.; John Conyers, D-Mich.; Ron Dellums, D-Calif.; and Bill Clay, D-Mo., slated to become committee chairmen.

The Democrats could elect a second black senator to join Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois if ex-Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt topples Sen. Jesse Helms in North Carolina.

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