Black Politicians Continue to Make Strides

Friday, February 6th 2009, 10:26 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- For many African-Americans, Black History Month takes on a new significance, but there's another black leader is making waves in politics.

Representative T.W. Shannon (R-District 62) is the only African-American republican in the state legislature. He acknowledged his party needs to work harder to broaden its base.

"Clearly, we've had to regroup and put on our thinking caps and think about how we reach out to groups that we traditionally haven't reached out to," Representative Shannon said.

The national chapter recognizes that as well and last week, the Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele, Maryland's former Lieutenant Governor, as its chairman. He's the first African-American chairman in the history of the RNC.

Last November, Steele chided his own party for its lack of inclusiveness.

"Our party has done absolutely jack to help them, understand and appreciate our history," Steele said. "We've done nothing."

Oklahoma republican Currie Ballard said things are changing. He recently made history as the first African-American Assistant Secretary of the Oklahoma Senate.

"When the call was made from Senate Glenn Coffee's office, I was tickled to death," Ballard said.

He said Oklahomans are leading the way in diversifying the GOP.

"For this party to create that large umbrella that has been spoken about, we have to execute it and we're in the process of executing those plans," Currie said.

Currie said Shannon's re-election is proof of the process in a largely democratic district.

"He deals with all races and all communities," Currie said. "That is the new face of the Republican Party."

Shannon attributed his success to communicating a message with a broader appeal.

"We've made it a point to talk about what it is to be conservative, not just what it is to be republican and that has a far greater reach," Shannon said.