Detroit's Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke has announced that he will no longer participate in primary debates because he has been targeted with "racist" phone calls and e-mails. Questions have been raised about his ethnicity, particularly whether his mother was Black as he said, reports the Detroit News and Free Press.
Clarke skipped Sunday afternoon's debate. ... While some candidates opted to avoid the subject, former state representative Mary Waters dove right in. "Congressman Clarke is an American and he deserves to run for office, just like anyone else," she said. "My question is … you also have to be honest with those who elected you. That means if your ethnicity is in question then come forward and address it."
In biographical information, Clarke, D-Detroit, has said he's the son of an African-American mother and an Indian father. Both of his parents have died. The race issue was raised when a death certificate was dug up by a Southfield resident doing background research on Clarke. The death certificate for Thelma Hashim on Dec. 20, 1976, from Detroit listed her race as "white," according to the document pulled by Wendell Smiley, 30, who said he did the research independent of any campaign.
Last week "radio host Mildred Gaddis reported on her show that a robo call had gone out in the 14th district claiming Clark is not black," reports the Free Press. "Clarke’s opponents' campaigns said they had not heard the call."
Clarke is the former state legislator who defeated 8-term Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in 2010. He's locked in a five-way fight for a new congressional district with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, Waters, and retired 36th District Court Magistrate Robert Costello of Detroit.
Detroit's "significant population loss" and the district's new boundaries mean that Reps. John Conyers Jr. and Hansen Clarke may be ousted by white Democratic challengers ... and leave Detroit without a "Black representative in Congress for the first time since 1955, a shift that would punctuate the erosion of African-American power in a region with a history of racial friction," reports BusinessWeek.
Clarke has a strong record on LGBT issues. Clarke co-sponsored legislation to expand Michigan’s hate crime law to include sexual orientation. Clarke has been an outspoken advocate on HIV funding and policy. The state senator was among the first elected officials in Michigan to condemn the 2010 bio-terrorism charge slapped against an HIV positive black gay man accused of biting a neighbor.
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