President Donald Trump, his 2020 campaign, and Republican political and media figures are championing Black Republican congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik, who has almost no chance of defeating Democratic opponent Rep. Kweisi Mfume in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District this year but has nevertheless been given a slot to speak at the Republican National Convention Monday.
Klacik took just 25 percent of the vote in the April special election to fill the seat left vacant in October when Baltimore’s Rep. Elijah Cummings died. Klacik does not live in the district and and her electoral prospects are unlikely, so why is she speaking at the Republican National Convention? Right-wing political operatives and right-wing media have joined forces to turn Klacik into a Republican sensation with a campaign video designed less to promote her congressional candidacy than to advance President Donald Trump’s reelection strategy.
Klacik made a bit of a splash last summer by filming and posting videos about trash and illegal dumping at a time when Trump was sparring with Cummings, who was leading investigations into members of the Trump administration as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Trump trashed the city as a “rodent-infested mess” and retweeted Klacik’s video of blight. After Cummings died, Klacik made a run for his seat.
“I was told Jesus Christ couldn’t win this district,” Klacik told Sebastian Gorka in an Aug. 19 interview on his “America First” radio show. “It’s plus-26 Democratic district. And I was like, ‘Wow, I’m gonna give it a shot.’“ She lost to Mfume in the special election in April but easily won the Republican primary in June.
What has made Klacik into a right-wing star just in time for the Republican convention was a video produced this summer by Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson, whom Klacik calls a “genius.” In the video, Klacik, in bright red dress and heels, strides around a run-down section of Baltimore while denouncing the city’s Democratic leaders. But this isn’t a policy ad, it’s a Trumpian partisan tirade, with the video running under big block letters proclaiming, “Black lives don’t matter to Democrats” and ending with Klacik saying, “Black people don’t have to vote Democrat.”
Klacik talked about Johnson’s role in the video on Gorka’s show. She said it was Johnson’s idea to ask neighborhood residents if they supported defunding the police; snippets of residents saying “no” made into the campaign video. “Benny Johnson’s now kind of famous in West Baltimore,” she said.
Johnson got his start in right-wing media and politics at Breitbart and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze. After a stint at BuzzFeed ended in a plagiarism scandal, he eventually landed at Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller before joining TPUSA last year. In June, Johnson falsely reported that Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters walking by their home, were Democrats; in reality the gun-toting Mark McCloskey had donated $2,700 to Trump and other Republican causes in the 2016 election cycle. The couple is scheduled to speak at the GOP convention.
TPUSA is a right-wing youth organizing group. White nationalist organizers have encouraged their members to join TPUSA groups and turn them into hubs for organized hate and far-right activists have flocked to the group. TPUSA has repeatedly pushed away chapter presidents, ambassadors, and activists whose far-right beliefs have received public attention.
TPUSA is led by Charlie Kirk, whose contempt for progressives and educational “elites” have won him admiration from Trump and his family. Kirk is also closely aligned with Jerry Falwell Jr. and other religious-right supporters of Trump. TPUSA’s close ties with the Trump administration and family have paid off for Klacik; President Trump retweeted the video on Aug. 18 and other members of Team Trump have shared on social media.
As the Baltimore Sun noted in an editorial last week, “The video isn’t really for 7th District consumption … it’s meant for a national audience … Baltimore is made to play the role of Urban Horror and to scare people who have never been here … Ms. Klacik’s part is to be a political stalking horse, to at least blunt Black support for Democrats on behalf of Mr. Trump, who in 2016 won all of 8 percent of Black votes.”
Indeed, Klacik told Gorka that the Trump campaign’s Black Voices for Trump should “descend” into cities like Philadelphia and say, “Hey, you know what, you don’t have to vote Democrat.”
Laura Ingraham had Klacik on her show during last week’s Democratic National Convention. Klacik took the opportunity to mock Michelle Obama’s speech, saying that Obama “talked about how even she’s a victim being Black in America from her mansion in Martha’s Vineyard.”
Ingraham called Klacik’s video “the best commercial I’ve seen in, uh, could be 10 years.”