Will the Next Black Senator Be a Familiar Face From Oklahoma?

J.C. Watts is leading the polls for the Republican nomination for Senate, but he’d be running against one of his former aides.

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If you haven’t noticed, the Chickasaw Nation is running things in Oklahoma. The Native American tribe is already airing sleek tourism TV ads for the state during Meet the Press commercial breaks. And it is expected to drop a ton of loot on Shannon’s Senate bid.

Which moves these black Republicans make will dramatically dictate the outcome of the race. Oklahoma could very well send the current U.S. Senate its third African American. If Republicans retake the Senate in 2014—and they are very much on the cusp of doing so, based on recent polling projections—the color-splashing optics will look better for a party desperately seeking diversity.

Still, diversity will be a tough sell for a conservative, Tea Party-strangled political organization that’s among the most racially unwelcome institutions in the United States. And the new crop of black conservatives could be old wine in a new bottle. In the end, they hail from majority-white jurisdictions or other places where they’re more beholden to Southern-white political interests than empathetic to the needs of underserved black communities in their states and beyond.   

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and frequent contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. You can reach him via Twitter.

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