What started as a mission to help residents in Baltimore’s low-income neighborhoods, led Republican candidate Kimberly Klacik to run for Congress with the support of the Trump administration.
In 2018, Klacik, the founder of Potential Me, a nonprofit organization to help women find employment, walked the streets of West Baltimore capturing images with her cellphone of dilapidated homes and trash-lined alleyways.
Her Twitter post caught the attention of millions nationwide, including President Donald Trump, who has endorsed the candidate four times since her controversial campaign video.
Though new to the political scene, the 38-year-old has raised more than $6 million in campaign contributions. If elected, she stands to become the first Black female Republican to win the seat.
In April, Klacik’s opponent, former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who serves as chairman of the Board of Regents at Morgan State University, defeated her by a landslide in a special election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, following the death of late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
The Spokesman made its first of many attempts to reach Mfume, for an interview on Oct. 24.
Anthony McCarthy, a campaign spokesman said in an email, “unfortunately, we are unable to grant your interview request due to the Congressman’s busy schedule as we are only days from the election and the lateness of your request.”
For Klacik, it wasn’t until after the congressman’s death that she gained the momentum to run for office.
What are some of the misconceptions you feel people have about being a Black Republican, and what does it mean to you to be a female Black conservative?
So, I hear the “Uncle Tom,” the “sellout,” the “coon.” I look at it as this. I think sometimes people are just misinformed. I think getting into office and proving otherwise, having my actions speak louder than those words are coming at me, I think that’s how people look at it. Usually, I don’t take part in stuff that focuses on race and gender. But I say, it is important. It is important because one of the things I want to do on Capitol Hill is the over-the-counter birth control, oral contraceptives.
For me, it’s like that issue probably wouldn’t be addressed unless we do have more women on Capitol Hill, because we’re going to push for it more than men. As far as being black, I hope that there are young girls in Baltimore that say, “You know what? I want to run for office and make a change. Look at Kim. She did it.”
What empowered you to run for Congress?
Last July, I was going through parts of West Baltimore and talking to the locals and this one gentleman asked if I could post a video or a picture of a situation he had in his yard. He had been calling [Baltimore City Department of Public Works] since December 2018 to pick all the stuff up out of their alley. So, we go around the house. He’s showing me where there were rats that were biting in through the home and I said, “Look, I only have 16,000 followers, but I’ll post it. I’ll tag DPW, Brandon Scott, the council president, Mayor Jack Young and Congressman Elijah Cummings.”
And so, I did that for about a week, showing different areas where they were asking for help.
So, this is when [President Donald Trump] tweeted about it. This is when they were going back and forth, him and Congressman Cummings and it kind of blew up into this tweet storm. I didn’t see that coming, obviously. But DPW then did go in and clean up all the trash because now there was this huge spotlight on it. And at this time, they had 77,000 backlog sanitation cases. Yet they ended up getting it down to 260 cases at total without more funding. So, I was like wait a minute. So, you got the money to do it. You got it done. You literally just need someone to call you out? That’s crazy.
Your campaign ad video really swept the nation after pulling back the curtains and exposing some really bad conditions in Baltimore. What are some of your top issues that you plan to tackle, if elected?
The manufacturing. We used to be a manufacturing powerhouse, and this is what I talk about when I talk to individuals. We could do a lot of exporting here from the country when we bring the medical equipment industry back to the U.S. We could be the epicenter for the medical industry. And that creates so many high paying careers. People want careers with benefits. School choice. You know, I believe every parent should be able to decide where they want to send their kids to school. Just because you live in a certain zip code, I don’t think that means you have to send your kid to that school if that’s not where your kid will excel.
And then, of course, doing something about the crime and violence. Obviously, on a federal level, you don’t do a ton there. But we do control some of the funding that would go to the police department and the police commissioner and they would make some of those budget decisions. But they need to come up with a plan, too. I haven’t seen a plan from the police. I don’t know about you. I am pro-police. I back the blue. But y’all need a plan because over 300 murders for five years in a row, isn’t working.
What challenges have you faced running for Congress in a predominantly Democratic district?
So, I know a lot of people, the way they perceive me is probably based on what happened with President Trump and Congressman Elijah Cummings. I understand that. I guess for me, yes, I’ve only been here since 2010, but my office has always been in Baltimore City.
Yes, there’s never been a Republican in the seat. But I think when you have that one party mob rule and it doesn’t change hands, it’s like a disaster and a recipe for corruption. We saw the mayor was indicted last year for pay to play. You know, we see a lot of things, like I said with DPW, that there seems to be this money coming in, but that it doesn’t really hit the ground. Right? So, we know, annually, since 2015, President Obama and Congressman Elijah Cummings secured $1.1 billion annually for the Baltimore City area and that was due to what we saw for the riots for Freddie Gray. Right now, you look at Penn North Corridor today, you wouldn’t think that it was getting a billion dollars annually over there. And then in 2018, President Trump sent $15.7 billion to the greater Baltimore area. Like, where is it now? And so, to me, obviously, there’s something going on.
And I know people say, “well, she’s not from here.” I get it, but I don’t have to be from here to understand that the people in the predominantly Black neighborhoods with low income are being mistreated. I was there yesterday, and this young woman said, “I almost feel like they’re treating us like animals in this area because they don’t care.” You’ve got some elected officials that have lived there their whole lives, but it still looks like that. So, it’s kind of like, does it matter where you live or where your heart is?
You recently appeared in a panel discussion on Hulu’s “The Women Who Run.” You mentioned one of your biggest challenges running for office is combatting the narrative that the Trump administration is racially intolerant towards the Black community. How do you respond to voters who do not agree with President Trump, but agree with your objectives?
This is a narrative that we see a lot in the mainstream media. I get it, right? We’re in a time where things are very divisive, very polarizing. It’s election year. But at the same time, the person I work with the most over the Trump administration when I go to the White House is Ja’Ron Smith, a Black guy. I work with Pastor Scott, Kareem [Lanier]. All of the individuals I work with, Ashley Bell, who does SBA, they are Black. We just don’t hear about them that much because they’re more behind the scenes. So, for me, he’s not that racist person. He’s endorsed us four times already. I think he’s endorsed us most out of any congressional candidate across the country.
I’m a Black woman, obviously. Do I love everything President Trump says? No. But I guess I look at the actions. I know President Trump. Like I said, I work with his administration. I know what he’s willing to put into Baltimore. So, when he did that platinum plan, he’s going to do $500 billion in opportunity zones across the country. And Ja’Ron Smith, all those guys are going to be the head of it. Their first stop is Baltimore, so we get first dibs on that. So, when I look at something like that, we can really benefit from that. And so that’s why I explain to people like I can get a lot more done if Trump’s in office.
Since this summer, we have seen several Black Lives Matter protests stemming from police brutality. How does your position on criminal justice reform and supporting law enforcement help to ensure less unnecessary force from the BCPD and less crime in Baltimore?
Yes. So, we saw with Freddie Gray. I’ve always said I don’t think Freddie Gray killed himself in the back of that paddy wagon. We saw the Gun Trace Task Force. They were ousted. They were planting guns and drugs. But to me, I feel like you could only have a corrupt police department when you have corruption all around. Obviously, for me, when I think of police brutality, I see a lot of police that need more training. From the videos I see, it sometimes gets hasty. Sometimes they’re shooting to kill when they don’t need to. But for me, if we’re going to have better trained police, we might need to add funding to get the better training.
I also looked a lot at the overtime status that a lot of cops are getting. And I think, you know, when you are down police like we are in Baltimore City, you do have a lot of cops that are doing overtime. And I’m hoping that when we get better training and we start making it more acceptable in the community, we’ll get more officers so that these guys aren’t on overtime and sucking that dry out of the budget. And I think when they’re tired, they probably do make more hasty decisions.
If the Affordable Healthcare Act is repealed, the health and wellbeing of thousands of students will be jeopardized in the middle of a pandemic. Although you’re in opposition, what do you propose we put in replacement of the ACA?
I think we just maybe do some amendments and figure out how to reform it because we had a lot of high deductibles and a lot of high premiums, and so it wasn’t so affordable for everybody. You know, if we’re going to do something that’s mandated, I think we should take another look at it. I wasn’t so happy with the rollout of it either. I’m not completely opposed to it, but from where it stands, it’s extremely complicated.
I feel like they made it complicated because they don’t really want people to read through it. I wish we could all just come to the table and say, look, here’s where we need the most funding. Here’s [where] we need the most help. Obviously, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, there’s a lot of things that we need to actually add funding to and I think it all kind of falls into the same umbrella.
If you don’t win this election, what’s next for Kimberly Klacik?
I believe whether I’m in that seat or not, and obviously I want to be in that seat to do more, I still believe I can do some work in the White House and do some community engagement and still make sure a lot of that still happens in Baltimore. Because that’s what I’m about. We need careers here.