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In South Carolina, a black Republican makes history

June 16, 2008 |  4:45 pm

A year in which Barack Obama heads the Democratic national ticket is not a year in which the party's decades-old lock on the black vote will show any signs of loosening.

Indeed, a recent Associated Press story noted that because of the precedent-shattering nature of Obama's candidacy, even some well-known African American voices from the right were thinking twice about what they would do with their secret ballot.

Commentator Armstrong Williams said of Obama: "I don't necessarily like his policies; I don't like much that he advocates, but for the first time in my life, history thrusts me to really seriously think about" voting for a Democrat for president. "I can honestly say I have no idea who I'm going to pull that lever for in November. And to me, that's incredible."

Also on the fence, according to the story, is J.C. Watts, the former House member from Oklahoma who for years -- in virtually every story that quoted him -- would at some point be identified as "the sole Republican member of Congress."

Against this backdrop, the surprise in November will be if Obama fails to better the high mark for black support that exit polls found was hit by two Democratic presidential candidates -- 90%, posted by Walter Mondale in 1984 and equaled by Al Gore in 2000 (John Kerry came close four years ago, winning 88%).

But also against this backdrop, it is worth noting a small milestone for a black GOP politician that occurred last week in South Carolina.

Tim Scott, a businessman who also chairs the Charleston County Council, won his party's nomination for a seat in the state's House of Representatives. He faces no Democratic opposition in the general election, setting the stage for him to become the first black Republican to serve in South Carolina's Legislature since Reconstruction ended in 1877.

In writing about Scott's achievement, the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported that when Scott takes office, South Carolina will be "on par with Georgia" as the only Deep South state where the ranks of state legislators include black Republicans.

And for a take on Scott's win from a South Carolina-based blog that, according to its "about us" statement, was "conceptualized out of sheer boredom and an insatiable lust for attention," go here.

-- Don Frederick