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Byron Donalds Is the J.C. Watts for His Time

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Jason Andrew/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Editor's note: This piece was co-authored by Clarence Henderson and Diante Johnson.

It's been 23 years since a Black American has held a leadership position in the House GOP, and members in the House of Representatives have the chance to make history again by electing Rep. Byron Donalds to House GOP Conference Chair. As our party aims to court more women and ethnic minorities into the conservative movement, the face of the party must represent the areas we wish to build. In the 117th Congress, there are only two Black Republican Americans in the House of Representatives and only one in the United States Senate. Looking at the 118th Congress, more than 80 Black Americans have decided to run for Congress. And if the Midterm Elections swing in favor of the GOP, the United States Congress will have the largest share of Black Republican Americans in Congress in its history. From Wesley Hunt (R-TX), Jennifer- Ruth Green (R-IN), John Gibbs (R-MI), George Logan (R-CT) in the House, and Herschel Walker (R-GA) in the Senate, the prospects for historic Black Conservative representation are on the cusp of making history.


As Republicans are poised to take back the House, the race to shape the party's leadership has begun. Before anointing anyone for any position, we must consider all candidates, their voting record, ideology, and ability to enhance the party. Since announcing his early intentions and interest in running for GOP Conference Chair, many in Republican circles have unanimously agreed that Byron Donalds would be a great candidate for this position. Following the disastrous and self-centered absence of leadership of outgoing Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), many in the GOP lined up behind New York Republican Elise Stefanik, either reluctantly or by persuasion to take over the number three job in leadership. Despite Stefanik's centrist ideology and voting record, her loyalty to President Trump and years on Capitol Hill made her a shoo-in under the pretext that she'd only serve for one year. With that commitment to her colleagues in mind, many, including Donalds, began to eye the all-important position of leading the party's messaging for the next Congress. 

Since 2003, many in the Beltway have looked to a woman to lead the House GOP Conference, with Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Stefanik all holding the title in recent history. Before this series of—for the most part—qualified and effective Chairwomen, our party elected its first Black American to leadership, Julius Caesar "J.C" Watts Jr.

Since this momentous occasion, the party has made significant progress in attracting Black Americans to the Republican Party, primarily due to efforts by the Republican National Committee, state and local parties, and Former President Donald J. Trump. It's high time for our party to elect the modern-day J.C. Watts into House GOP leadership, choosing Byron Donalds as the next Conference Chair. Like Watts, his ascension to GOP leadership had nothing to do with race but everything to do with ideology and ability to do the job—their ethnicity solely acting as a bonus. Above any identity politics perks, conservative ideology trumps color, creed, or class. 


A common misconception is that "non-traditional" GOP voters such as Black and Latinos aren't conservative—that couldn't be further from the truth. As our party looks to grow the Republican body politic, we need a true conservative that can articulately and effectively message the GOP's commitments to America and convince atypical voters to consider voting Republican.

Byron Donalds stands out as the obvious choice based on voting records alone. Since entering Congress, Byron holds a perfect 100 percent rating by the American Conservative Union, juxtaposed to Stefanik's 48.35-lifetime rating. Taking hard votes and prioritizing conservative principles over potential political blowback is genuine leadership, and we can count on Byron to stand firm every time. Additionally, the party's base is desperate for their elected officials to fight back against the forces of Marxism and totalitarianism eroding our Constitutional Republic. Far too often, many elected Republicans favor a positive headline on a left-lining editorial page over the prevailing winds of the people they serve. We cannot shy away from debate, and we must have a Conference Chair that doesn't shut out hostile press but looks them in the eye and challenges their flimsy platitudes. Again, Byron Donalds stands out as the obvious choice to achieve this. In almost 20 months in Congress, Rep. Donalds has gone mono y mono with CNN's Brianna Keilar, former anchor Chris Cuomo, MSNBC's Chuck Todd, and Ari Melber. That ability to sit down and defend the GOP message in enemy territory is the courage and conviction we need in Republican leadership, not someone basking in the comfort of conservative media. 


Look, we know many will say Byron is ahead of his skis or even dare to throw dirt on his name. No matter what the opposition says, when you compare the two, Byron Donalds will make a far better Conference Chair than Elise Stefanik. As we head into the depths of campaign season, the priority must be securing victories not only in the House, but the Senate, Governor's mansions, and State legislatures—but we must also have this pointed conversation about the future of our party. Elise served out her one-year commitment well, now it's time for a fresh face and new Republican perspective—it's time for Byron Donalds for House GOP Conference Chair.     


Jack Brewer, Clarence Henderson, Diante Johnson

Supported By: 

Angela Stanton-King, Ayshia Connors, Babette Holder, Brenda Thiam, Christopher Harris, CJ Pearson, Claston Bernard, Corrin Rankin, Cynthia Blake, Dean Nelson, Dr. Linda Lee Tarver, Ebo Entaush, George Farrell, Jalen Johnson, Jeff Charles, Kelly Mitchell, Kevin Mcgary, Kyian Michael, Latreasa Jones, Leon Benjamin, Lisa Babbage, Lonnie Poindexter, Marie Fischer, Martell Bivings, Philip Clay, Quenton Jordan, Robin Barnes, Rod Dorilas, Valerie Johnson, Vivian Childs and, Whitley Yates. 

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