Freshman state Rep. Harry Lewis Jr. is creating a “big tent” moment for Pennsylvania Republicans.
For the first time in 20 years, the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus will include a Republican member. And the Pennsylvania House Republicans will have an African-American in their number.
Lewis, a retired principal and longtime head track coach at Coatesville Area High School, was elected in November to represent the newly-constituted 74th House District in Chester County.
A graduate of Winston-Salem State University who has been described as something of a rock star in his hometown, he becomes the first black Republican elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature since 1992.
Lewis notes that he never ran as a race-based candidate.
“I’m concerned about all the constituents I represent,” he told PennLive in an interview after Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremonies, “be they white, African-American, Republican or Democrat.”
Among his top concerns are school funding, property tax reform, open space preservation and stimulating economic growth.
That said, he’s happy to bring new perspectives into both the GOP — which has been slammed by many African-American leaders in recent years for supporting new voter identification initiatives — and the heretofore all-Democrat Black Caucus.
“You take advantage of what’s presented to you, and if it helps it helps,” Lewis said matter-of-factly.
The 73-year-old Coatesville native said he has been a lifelong member of the Republican Party. He first registered during the Civil Rights movement – a time when most of the biggest segregationists on the political scene were Southern Democrats.
His history-making arrival at the Capitol aside, Lewis believes he was elected to the new 74th legislative district mostly because he has earned the respect and trust of his friends neighbors.
Until now, the last African-American to be elected to the state House as a Republican was Robert C. Wright, a Republican attorney from Chester. Wright was elected to the state House in 1981, and served through 1992.
To read the full article by Charles Thompson, please click here.