Monday, December 07, 2009

Will Charleston FInally Have Minority Representation in District 31?

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. White and affluent Carrie Webster has held this seat for several years.

But now that Carrie Webster has been named as the replacement for Circuit Court Judge Irene Berger (who was recently named to the federal bench) perhaps we will finally see a minority in the seat. In the last election Webster was challenged strongly by Meshea Poore, an African American attorney and former public defender, and Poore is being talked about as the likely replacement for Webster. To solidify her candidacy, she has already filed her candidacy papers with the secretary of state's office.

Poore seems to be a good choice for the seat, and if it had not been for Webster's incumbancy and the help of her affluent lawyer friends and donors, she might have already owned it. It would be a shame if the governor did not appoint Poore to this unexpired seat 18 years after an intentional act of the government set the stage for much needed change in representation in this, the most concentrated minority district in the state.

Do the right thing, Joe. Show us that you are abve the good ol' boy system.