Kim Klacik: Poster girl for 'next generation' of pro-Trump voters

Maryland Congressional Candidate Kim Klacik is running in Baltimore, a city long held by Democrats. PHOTO: REUTERS

BALTIMORE (AFP) - Young, Black and Republican, Ms Kim Klacik wants to embody the "next generation" of pro-Trump voters - and if, despite the odds, she wins a Congressional seat on Nov 3, it will be a hugely symbolic victory.

Ms Klacik is running in Baltimore, the Maryland port city decried by President Donald Trump as "disgusting" and "rodent infested".

If she can win it, she would take the seat long held by Mr Elijah Cummings, an emblematic figure of the Democratic Party who died last year.

The city has long been held by Democrats. But Ms Klacik has been endorsed by Mr Trump, and she has raised US$6.4 million (S$8.74 million) in just three months - evidence of her strong appeal in Republican circles.

She began gaining traction on social media in the summer of 2019 after she tweeted several videos of dilapidated Baltimore streets and garbage piling up in downtown alleys.

Ms Klacik accuses officials in Charm City of abandoning its predominantly Black population - a claim quickly supported by Mr Trump.

As her popularity soared - driven by more videos of her speaking to the camera as she strides through Baltimore in stilettos - she was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention this summer.

Ms Klacik, a 38-year-old former political strategist born in Accokeek, Maryland, moved to the Baltimore area in 2010.

Married to a white lawyer, she has a young daughter, Olivia.

She soon founded Potential Me, a non-profit that seeks to help economically disadvantaged women in this city of 600,000 people that is plagued by social problems, poverty, drugs and violence.

However, despite her background, her powerful presidential ally and her media savvy, her potential path to the House of Representatives has not been as smooth as Republicans may have hoped.

The district remains a Democratic stronghold, and her opponent, the 71-year-old, heavily favoured Democratic candidate Kweisi Mfume, trounced her in a special election in April after Mr Cummings died.

Ms Klacik is relying on her youth and on a programme focused on jobs and security to persuade voters to back her this time.

"It's time for the next generation to step up. We need new ideas," she said in mid-September at a political meeting at a Maryland winery.

'Big swing'

In front of 200 participants, she denounced the under-utilisation of Baltimore's port, once one of the most important in the country, and promised to rebuild the battered city as a manufacturing centre.

She wants to boost the crumbling public school system and put an end to endemic violence. With more than 300 homicides a year in recent years, Baltimore is one of the deadliest cities in the country.

But, in order to win, she must take back the African American votes that traditionally go to Democrats.

"I was a Democrat because my parents were Democrats. I got the news filtered. That's just the way of life for many Black families," Ms Klacik told AFP.

"A lot of Black Americans are afraid to even admit that they support Donald Trump," she said, predicting a "big swing" because "Donald Trump is good for the economy. Black people know that".

Like Mr Trump, she is in favour of a building a wall at the Mexico-US border, and against cutting police budgets.

Ms Klacik also predicts that the Latino vote will swing behind the Republican billionaire, despite his comments in 2016 about Mexicans crossing the border being "rapists" or an "invasion" of illegal immigrants on the southern border.

"People talk about law and order. They see jobs and career opportunities. People are looking at those numbers" that took off during Mr Trump's first three years in office, she said - before the coronavirus pandemic that plunged the country into a deep economic crisis.

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