While Republicans are busy deciding who will represent the party in next year’s presidential election, Gary Franks is contemplating how the eventual nominee could do a better job of attracting black support.
If his name sounds familiar, Mr. Franks is a former congressman from Connecticut and a bona fide racial pioneer. Upon winning his House seat in 1990, the Waterbury native became the first black Republican in Congress in nearly six decades and the only one ever elected from Connecticut. Over the next six years, Mr. Franks fought for welfare reform, backed lower tax rates, opposed the racial gerrymandering of voting districts and tested the tolerance of Congressional Black Caucus progressives.
The caucus failed the test, of course, voting to limit their GOP colleague’s access to meetings. Former Missouri Rep. Bill Clay Sr., a veteran of the caucus and father of the current congressman, took matters even further and in 1996 issued a six-page letter that referred to “Franks’ foot-shuffling, head-scratching ‘Amos and Andy’ brand of ‘Uncle Tom-ism.’ ” Mr. Franks, ever the jolly warrior, did not respond in kind. “Obviously Bill Clay is not a supporter of mine,” he deadpanned, “but I wish him Godspeed.”