This year's campaign for Congress looks to be the liveliest since 1994's "Contract with America" explosion. And, unless she has a last-minute change of heart and mind, Star Parker, president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, is announcing this month her candidacy to represent a poor, heavily Democratic, majority-black congressional district just east and south of Los Angeles.
Parker, born in 1956, is a Republican who hasn't held political office before, but we joked last month that she had a ready reply if attacked on grounds of inexperience: You're wrong. I've stolen. I've lied. I know how to do wrong. Indeed she does. Drugs, armed robbery, four abortions: "I was very flirty and promiscuous, and several bouts with sexually transmitted diseases didn't stop me."
Parker, on welfare, learned that "welfare policy hurts the very people we're trying to help. It boiled down to, 'Don't work, don't save, don't get married. We'll take care of you.'" She wanted extra cash that wouldn't be reported, but when she applied at one Los Angeles business headed by "really good-looking guys," they refused to pay under-the-table and also said that her lifestyle was "unacceptable to God."
They didn't hire her but they did keep calling her, asking her to go to church with them, and she finally did—"and things started changing. I felt equipped to make proper decisions. I could say no to junkie friends. I could say no to the guys I knew." Parker went off welfare, took a job answering phones in the basement of a food distribution company, learned that she had a gift for selling, gained a degree in marketing, and started her own business.
The business was a magazine that spotlighted church-sponsored events of interest to singles. It did well but crashed in 1992 when Los Angeles (including many of her advertisers) burned in the Rodney King riots. Parker began speaking out against those who thought "that even these riots were somebody else's fault. I had been hearing for so long the rhetoric that everything that happens to blacks is because of somebody white."