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Maryland’s Kim Klacik encourages Republicans in GOP convention speech not to ‘write off these inner cities’

In this image from video, Kim Klacik speaks from Baltimore during the first night of the Republican National Convention on Monday. Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via AP.
In this image from video, Kim Klacik speaks from Baltimore during the first night of the Republican National Convention on Monday. Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via AP. (AP)

Maryland congressional nominee Kim Klacik used her brief appearance Monday during the Republican National Convention to encourage members of her party not to give up on running in cities that are Democratic strongholds.

The long-shot Republican candidate was invited to speak after drawing President Donald Trump’s eye with a viral campaign ad, in which she walks through a blighted neighborhood and tells viewers, “Black people don’t have to vote Democrat.” She struck a similar tone during Monday’s prerecorded speech.

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Klacik filmed her remarks in West Baltimore, the scene of her video last week, as well as the location for videos last summer showing trash in the area that also caught the president’s attention.

Her convention remarks were shown just before 9 p.m. and ran two minutes.

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Klacik, who is Black, said earlier Monday in an interview that she was aiming to spread a message that Republicans should not “write off” running in historically Democratic areas.

“I want Baltimore to be an example to Republicans around the country that we can compete in our inner cities if we reach out to the citizens and deliver real results,” she said during her remarks.

She compared herself to Democrat Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to serve in Congress and the first to seek the presidential nomination in 1972, while invoking Chisholm’s slogan.

“My name is Kim Klacik, and I’m running for Congress in Maryland’s 7th District, and like Shirley Chisholm, I’m ‘unbought and unbossed.‘”

Chisholm, of Brooklyn, New York, was a trailblazer who didn’t wait for the political establishment to sign off on her ambitions. When U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California last week accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination, becoming the first Black woman to do so, she, too, invoked Chisholm’s legacy. Harris cited her among Black women politicians and leaders who were inspirations.

Klacik also used her time to praise the president for “bringing the American spirit to life for all Americans.”

The Trump campaign described her as “a Black Republican running to represent Baltimore in Congress after Democrats have failed the city for 50 years.”

Victory in her bid for the 7th District seat once held by the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings is considered improbable. She is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat who defeated Klacik in a special election in April by a 3-to-1 margin.

“Her message to Republicans about not writing off inner cities comes about 50 years too late,” Mfume said Monday night before her remarks were shown. “Donald Trump and his party don’t give a damn about inner cities, which is why they never win there. People can see what’s going on.”

Klacik said in the interview that she thinks her viral campaign video “has changed the game.” In addition to her speaking role at the RNC, it led to a swell of campaign volunteers and an influx of donations. She said her campaign has raised nearly $3 million since she first tweeted the video a week ago. The next campaign finance reports won’t be released until September.

In the ad, Klacik walks along streets full of vacant homes, sits on a “Greatest City in America” bench and stands on a rooftop. She asserts that Democratic politicians have done nothing good for Baltimore and other cities, and that voters should not support them. The video was made by Benny Johnson, the chief creative officer for a conservative student group called Turning Point USA.

The ad resonated with Trump, who shared it with his tens of millions of Twitter followers. Klacik later got a call from the president’s campaign about a speaking role during the convention.

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This year’s Republican convention features a scaled-down, in-person event in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a limited number of convention delegates. Many of the speeches were recorded in other locations and stitched together for an online and TV presentation each night.

Vice President Mike Pence will speak Wednesday at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. The president will accept his nomination Thursday from the White House.

The Democratic convention last week was almost entirely virtual, with no delegates gathering in person in Milwaukee. Key remarks — including presidential nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech — were delivered from a location in Wilmington, Delaware.

This is the second time Klacik has drawn Trump’s attention. Last summer, she posted videos of trash-strewn parts of Baltimore that led to an appearance on Fox News. Trump responded with a Twitter tirade that called the city “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” and said the 7th Congressional District was “considered the Worst in the USA.”

The president’s attacks were largely directed toward Cummings, who died later in 2019, opening up the seat that Mfume now holds and Klacik hopes to win.

The 7th District encompasses much of Baltimore City, as well as large swaths of Howard and Baltimore counties. Klacik lives outside the district in Middle River. She has said she’ll move to the district if she wins.

Mfume said her campaign videos don’t prove dedication to the city.

“This notion of walking through a neighborhood for 20 minutes is not the same as working to help a neighborhood for 20 years,” he said.

While recently elected to replace Cummings, Mfume also held the seat from 1987 to 1997 and is a past CEO of the national NAACP.

Klacik has promoted herself as an alternative to the Democratic politicians who have long dominated politics in Baltimore. She also emphasizes that some of her positions are more moderate than those of many Republicans, such as supporting paid family leave, making birth control available without a prescription and the need to combat climate change.

Still, she made her ardent support of Trump clear in her speech. Among Baltimore voters, the president lost badly to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“I’m asking you to help President Trump complete this great American comeback,” she told RNC viewers. “Then, I’m asking you to help me start this great Baltimore comeback.”

She said she plans to use her recent fundraising haul to buy TV ads, including one focused on “solutions,” and send out mailers.

Asked about a specific set of policy proposals, Klacik said her campaign will be rolling one out shortly but did not provide details.

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“It’ll be a nice surprise,” she said.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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