News of the sentencing of former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, along with the recent FBI raid on the home of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas (D), and the sexual harassment/adultery allegations that led to the suspension of Republican candidate Herman Cain’s race to the White House, have many area voters agonizing over the future for African American candidates vying for public office. Johnson broke the public trust, while Thompson, who has not been found guilty of breaking any laws, still stands under a cloud with several District council members under investigation for possible ethics violations. Fact: last week was a bad week for Black elected officials.
Some voters blame it on racism that Black elected officials seem as if they are being targeted. Others credit social media for its role in exposing potential wrongdoings of politicians and then blasting their unconfirmed illegal acts to the world, casting a negative light on their service and their commitment to serving their constituents. This recent spate of alleged bad boy politicians already has folks wishing for the end of their tenure and predicting that fewer African American candidates will end up serving the District the next time. The truth is, the pontificators may be right, especially if the demographic shifts in the District play out similarly at the polls. But Black voters must remain active and engaged, despite the actions of a few. And Black office seekers must be encouraged to enter political races and equipped to handle the tough personal and physical challenges they will surely face.
The hard fought gains for Black political power won just 40 short years ago cannot be lost so soon.