Republicans are an oddity in Baltimore. Perhaps some older Americans remember Spiro Agnew, but that’s more or less it — until now.
About a year ago, Kim Klacik was a local GOP leader in Baltimore County. Today, she has nearly 400,000 Twitter followers along with an endorsement from President Trump in her campaign for Maryland’s 7th district. What exactly sparked this fame? Klacik showcased the rat-infested, crime-ridden streets of Baltimore for the nation.
‘Do you care about black lives?’ Klacik asked in a viral campaign video. ‘The people that run Baltimore don’t. I can prove it. Walk with me.’
Klacik is seen in the video walking through West Baltimore, daring to shine a light on abandoned streets that have been run by Democrats and ignored by Republicans for decades. And the public took notice. The video has more than 12 million views on Twitter alone and landed Klacik a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.
Democrats don’t want you to see this.
They’re scared that I’m exposing what life is like in Democrat run cities.
— Kimberly Klacik (@kimKBaltimore) August 17, 2020
‘Republicans have somewhat written off running in inner cities because of course, they’re heavily Democrat,’ she told The Spectator. ‘But if you don’t give them an option, how do you expect them to ever vote for a Republican?’
Klacik had an unorthodox route into the GOP. She was raised in Prince George’s County, worked in Washington DC and later moved to the Baltimore area. That’s about as blue as it gets in one of the nation’s bluest states. As a black woman raised with an emphasis on family values, she said she happily voted for Barack Obama in 2008. At the time, she looked up to the Obama family but eventually found herself disappointed when she saw the President and First Lady emphasizing their apparent victimhood.
‘I thought, “this is the role model right here — this whole family is what black America should be looking to,”’ she said. ‘But as soon as he got into office, it turned back to “woe is me.”’
Klacik quickly realized her values were more in line with conservatism. By 2009, she was a registered Republican and in 2018 she started working for the Baltimore County GOP. But only recently did Klacik gain national fame.
Last summer, she started tweeting videos of the trash-ridden streets of Charm City, receiving millions of views. From there, one thing led to another. Before she knew it, President Trump was retweeting her after a morning on Fox and Friends.
Suddenly, Republicans were focusing on inner-cities. Scott Presler, a conservative activist, started a clean-up effort in Baltimore that eventually spread to other cities including Chicago and Los Angeles. But volunteer work can only accomplish so much in a broken city.
Baltimore has averaged 332 homicides annually since 2015, marking the highest murder rate of any US city with a population of at least 500,000. Former Democratic Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh resigned from office in 2019 amid an FBI investigation into her business dealings, which landed her a three-year prison sentence in February.
In April, Klacik lost by nearly 50 percent against Kweisi Mfume in the special election for Maryland’s 7th district after the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings. The district has been heavily gerrymandered by the state’s Democratic leadership over time, dipping into Howard County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City.
This has caused the Maryland GOP to all but give up on the surrounding area of Baltimore. Klacik told The Spectator that the Maryland Republican party has yet to even contact her. The overwhelming majority of her campaign’s financial support has come from outside her district. Without support from local leaders, Klacik said it’s an uphill battle for inner-city GOP candidates to change the negative perception about their party.
‘This is what’s so frustrating about the Maryland GOP not reaching out,’ she told The Spectator. ‘I don’t know if they even want to change the narrative. Regardless, we’re going to keep pushing the message that government dependency isn’t helping anybody. That doesn’t lift anyone out of poverty. We’ll keep talking about helping people become financially independent.’
Klacik said voters in the district have expressed concerns to her about taxes and crime — the bread and butter of the GOP. At the same time, she said Republicans would have better success in cities if they took a more laissez-faire approach to issues such as gay rights and over-the-counter birth control.
‘We also have to get with the times,’ she told me. ‘We have to move forward. I know there are a lot of people who are anti-gay rights. I don’t see how that helps. That’s more government.’
On crime, Klacik said that in her experience, voters have been overwhelmingly against the notion of ‘defunding the police’. This is especially the case among older African Americans, who she said have told her they’re afraid to even leave their homes due to the city’s violent crime.
Klacik has praised Trump for taking the lead and reaching out to African American voters. Now, it’s up to the wider GOP to follow suit by actively campaigning in the trash-filled streets of deep-blue America.
‘It was Trump really that extended that olive branch by saying “what do you have to lose?”’’ she said. ‘I think a lot of people are listening.
‘If we talk more about family values, being pro-business, wanting less government, I think there would be a lot of success.’