By State Representative
It’s funny how a complex examination of redistricting and elections can be trivialized and reduced to an out of context comment about “looks.” Much has been made of a comment I made at a recent community meeting, when asked about the division within the Democratic Party. I have shared my concerns with the party and my view/opinion may not be popular with others. I understand the history of the battle for our community’s representation, my mother Marcia Coggs was this state’s first African American State Legislator; her victory was not easy and it only came with the support of the community.
Every 10 years during redistricting there has historically been a lot of vigorous debate about representation, except this time, because of the secret and divisive process used by the Republican Party.
A civilized debate could have been held in an appropriate place such as caucus or on the assembly floor rather than a community meeting or through sound bites in newspapers. There was no time for discussion on this matter. And in these particular debates the concerns of underrepresented communities could have been addressed.
In the 1980’s there were four African Americans out of 99 representatives for the state, we currently have eight. That doubling of representation happened through thoughtful discourse, hard fought elections and even lawsuits requiring that districts be configured to give communities of color the greatest opportunity possible to elect a person who best reflects the interests of the demographics of that district.
The Democratic Party itself recently fought a legal case against the map designed for the state and ultimately won, resulting in forcing the state to reconfigure south side districts. And it is my opinion that in this election cycle we could return to 1980’s level of representation if we do not vote and not to mention that this would be a disservice to our ancestors and the fight and struggle they went through to increase representation for our community.
Moreover, my comments were not aimed at any one person or district, just at reminding our community about the struggle of those who came before us to get the representation levels we currently have and how important it is for us never to forget that. Ultimately, the Voters will decide who they choose to represent them, my hope is that no representation is lost for our community and the best people win so that we can work diligently to address the needs of our community.