| CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct. 28 (UPI) -- If projections hold true, the U.S. Congress could see its first black Republican in seven years, political observers said.
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Tim Scott defeated the son of late Sen. Strom Thurmond to win the GOP nomination in the contest for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. Black Republican candidates also are mounting competitive campaigns against Democratic incumbents in Florida and Colorado, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Scott, backed by the Tea Party movement, conservative darling Sarah Palin and other GOP leaders, has become the candidate to watch in a reminder of the racial schism between the parties, an observer said. Of the 100-plus blacks serving in Congress since the beginning of the 20th century, only five have been Republicans.
"The Republican Party -- it's amazing -- as much as they have said that they want to be an inclusive party, they've really largely been exclusive", said Dewey Clayton, a professor of political science at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. "Yes, it is wonderful they have an African American running in South Carolina and some other races around the country. Does that make a huge breakthrough? I don't know."
Insiders told the Times they expect Scott, if elected, would be popular among Washington Republicans and provide a counter to claims the party is not in sync with black voters.
"Our recruitment process is colorblind, but Republicans are fortunate to have a number of strong and qualified candidates who embody the diversity of this country", said Paul Lindsay, a National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman.
The last black Republican House member was J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, who retired in 2003. The last black GOP senator was Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, who lost a re-election bid in 1978.
CQ Politics called the race between Scott and Democrat Ben Frasier "little more than a formality" in the conservative district. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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