Arizona In Danger Of Having No African-American State Lawmakers In 2015

January 29, 2014  |  

This seems hard to believe in 2014, but Arizona is in danger of having not even one African-American state lawmaker. This would be the first time this has happened in 60 years. About 4.5 percent of the state’s total population of 6.6 million is African American, according to Census Bureau data.

Right now, the  state has just one African-American representative in its legislature, who will leave in 2o15. Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor’s exit could make Arizona one of the few states without a leading black lawmaker.

Sen. Taylor (D-Phoenix) has served 15 years in Arizona’s legislature and last week she took her seat for her last term. She has been in the Senate for seven years after serving eight years in the House of Representatives.

“With Sen. Taylor’s departure, which comes due to term limits, there is a chance that Arizona could join a handful of other states with no current black lawmakers including Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont and Utah,” reports TheGrio

And Taylor is concerned about the possible lack of representation. “This is something that is more than unnerving,” Sen. Taylor told The Grio. “I think in our state of Arizona, and of course across the nation, it’s crucial to have diversity and representation in the state.”

For the last six decades, there has been at least one member of the state’s electoral body who is African American. In 1950 Arizona elected its first black members to the House, Hazyel Burton Daniels and Carl Sims Sr.

“Without having an African-American in the legislature, the issues of African-Americans will go by the wayside,” said Sen. Taylor. Among the concerns for blacks in the state are education, challenging Medicaid distribution and unhealthy environmental spaces.

On the city level, there is black representation, including council members Corey Woods and Coral Evans.

Still, for the first time in more than 40 years, there is also not one African American on the Phoenix City Council, reports AZCentral.com.

“The goal would be to have a state legislature that would be reflective of the diversity and that’s one we hope we can address,” Frank Camacho, the communications director at the Arizona Democratic Party, told theGrio.

You may recall, Arizona was a holdout on the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday and more recently, students at Arizona State University were criticized for throwing a racist MLK party — an incident Sen. Taylor called “disturbing, disheartening and saddening.”

Sen. Taylor hopes to help get potential candidates in place before her departure. “I don’t see why it’s impossible to be able to gain multiple seats,” she said. “What I do see is working with alliances and making people understand to the importance of diversity, it’s extremely critical.”

The Congressional Black Caucus is also concerned about the lack of diversity , but on the judicial level. The group sent a letter to the Obama administration, pressing the President to nominate more judicial nominees to the bench in Alabama. The CBC was already disturbed by the single nomination of a black judge in Georgia. There were six total nominations. In Alabama, they’re asking that “qualified” African American nominees be named ” until the court’s racial composition reasonably reflects the state’s black population.” Forty-one members of the CBC signed on to the letter, which was obtained by The Daily Beast. That concern extends across the country.

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