In 1991 a "minority influence district" was created by the legislature when they re-drew boundary lines to include census tracts that contained the largest concentration of African-Americans. This affirmative action gerrymandering was done in broad daylight and was met with approval by most Charlestonians, except for some Republicans who said it was simply a Democratic ploy to insure an extra seat in the legislature.
The move was greeted particularly well by members of the African-American community who saw it as a chance to have real representation in the state legislature. Several political newcomers tossed their hats in the ring in the first two elections after the creation of the district. They found out the hard way that it takes money and influence to win even in a small, targeted district like 31.
Unfortunately for minority candidates, the gerrymandering included the more affluent sections of the East End that has become an attractive place for young attorneys and other professionals to make their residences. This comparatively well-to-do minority of the district has dominated, politically. There has never been an African-American, nor any other minority candidate, elected to represent the district.
Yesterday's election continues the trend: Charleston's 31st District will again be represented by a young, white, affluent lawyer. Carrie Webster won re-election easily over Charles Minimah, a Republican who happens to be African-American.
Unfortunately Minimah was also one of Don Blankenship's chosen candidates. Who knows whether he would have had a better chance without Blankenship's money, but this district includes the ultra-liberal and densely populated 1400-1500 blocks of Virginia, Lee and Quarrier Streets where the average resident despises Blankenship and everything he represents. Minimah could not have had a worse ally.
It's a shame, too, because here is a man who came here from Nigeria and has achieved the "American Dream". He would have been a good representative for District 31 and would have brought true "minority influence" to the House of Delegates. Thanks, Don.