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Is Kim Klacik running for Congress, mayor or chief Trump enabler? | COMMENTARY

Kimberly Klacik, the Republican 7th Congressional District candidate, adjusts a campaign sign in Timonium in this file photo. She has a knack for developing videos about Baltimore's ills that attract President Trump's attention.
Kimberly Klacik, the Republican 7th Congressional District candidate, adjusts a campaign sign in Timonium in this file photo. She has a knack for developing videos about Baltimore's ills that attract President Trump's attention. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Whatever voters may think of the Republican nominee in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District (and judging by the results of last April’s special election, which she lost by a 3-to-1 margin, probably not much), Kimberly Klacik certainly has the ability to capture the attention of President Donald Trump. This week, Mr. Trump retweeted her 2 1/2-minute campaign video, and by Wednesday morning, it had been viewed more than 7 million times. The video features the Middle River resident walking past Sugar Hill Tavern Liquors on Druid Hill Avenue in Penn North and a lot of boarded up buildings and seemingly lifeless, trash-strewn streets to make the point that Democrats have caused a variety of urban ills from loss of jobs to violent crime and drug addiction. If Black lives matter, insists Ms. Klacik, who is Black, Black people living in Baltimore ought to support a candidate who will fix the city’s problems.

“Do you care about Black lives?” She asks. “The people who run Baltimore don’t.”

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Several things are curious about this. First, is the candidate’s ability to get President Trump’s attention by portraying Baltimore in the worst possible light. Call her the worst civic promoter in history, but there’s some sort of peculiar talent on display here. Last summer, she was leading a camera crew that set out to embarrass Rep. Elijah Cummings by showing West Baltimore’s blight and blaming it all on him. President Trump took note when the video made Fox & Friends and happily joined in his own trashing of the city, the 7th District and Mr. Cummings, then chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and frequent administration critic. Mr. Trump meted out his retaliation (among other things, Mr. Cummings had complained about squalor in border facilities) with over-the-top gusto, calling Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess” and “Worst in the USA.” Ms. Klacik, a loyal member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, was left to explain that she hadn’t wanted the matter to blow up into a “political mess.”

Or had she?

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If Ms. Klacik were running to be Baltimore’s next mayor or at least a member of the City Council, her claim that Democratic leaders had ruined the city would at least be understandable. But she is actually running against Democrat Kweisi Mfume for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives formerly held by the late Mr. Cummings. Whatever one may think of members of Congress, they don’t run cities, counties or even states, they represent one of 435 votes in one chamber of the federal legislative branch. Maryland’s 7th extends far beyond the city to Howard and Baltimore counties.

And while complaining about city leaders, current and past, is fair game for anyone (and among our favorite pastimes), it’s ludicrous and overly simple to blame the city’s ills on party affiliation. Concentrated poverty, substance abuse and a war on drugs that disproportionately criminalized low-income African Americans, racism and red-lining, the loss of blue collar jobs, collapsing public infrastructure, broken families and failing schools, these are among the major culprits. We’re all ears if a Republican, Democrat or, frankly, interplanetary visitor, has immediate means to correct any or all of them. It’s telling that Candidate Klacik offers no remedies in her video. Not one.

No, what’s happening here is not an earnest 38-year-old candidate seeking to show “reality” to an electorate that has unwisely swooned for one party, it’s an attempt to blunt the African American vote that overwhelmingly supports Democrats, including Joe Biden, with the narrative that Democrats have failed American cities. The video isn’t really for 7th District consumption; like its predecessor video, it’s meant for a national audience. That’s why it uses a map to show how other U.S. cities are under Democratic control and why it features comments from older African American men who object to “defunding” police, a favored GOP talking point on the national stage. Once again, Baltimore is made to play the role of Urban Horror and to scare people who have never been here, will never visit and likely will never realize that, overall, average household income in the 7th District is above the national average. 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% of Black votes.

If Ms. Klacik wants to talk about the wonderful things Republicans, such as Maryland’s governor, have done for West Baltimore she is welcome to try. Perhaps she can start with Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision five years ago to cancel the Red Line, the $2.9 billion east-west light rail project, that would have created thousands of jobs and served the very district she seeks to represent. Or maybe she’ll prefer to gloss over that part of reality, too.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels, writer Peter Jensen and summer intern Anjali DasSarma — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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