By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
Tamika Hamilton is a candidate in the race for California’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses most of North Eastern Sacramento County including parts of Sacramento, Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova.. Hamilton, 38, is an Air Force reservist, police officer’s wife and a mother of five. She’s also a Black Republican.
Hamilton says she’s the fresh face and fresh perspective that’s needed to turn the corner on some of the area’s most pressing issues.
In the months leading to the June 7 primary election, Hamilton’s campaign has raised $655,000. An April fundraiser at Bailarin Cellars Winery and Tasting Room in downtown Sacramento added more to the coffers. Such fundraising success, her team says, shows Hamilton is convincing people she’s worthy of their support — and votes.
Hamilton says she wants to address challenges facing everyday families.
“Gas prices, schools, public safety. Those are the top three issues, not only here in California and in this district, but across the country. Those really resonate with people,” she said.
She counts herself in that. “I made a decision to run because I was tired, like so many other people, of the division that’s happening in our country,” Hamilton said.
She says she’s looking to bring balance to local communities and focus on “the real issues.”
“There’s so many reasons why we have crime. There’s so many reasons why we’re having issues with schools and having that balance with schools and closing the achievement gap. It’s not just one thing,” she said. “I think that we need fresh voices, fresh perspectives and then on top of that, (we need) people that feel. Politicians don’t feel anymore and I think that’s paramount in what’s happening right now. People are looking for those helpers. I know that’s who I am and what I bring to the table.”
Hamilton previously ran for Congress in 2020, losing to veteran Democratic incumbent John Garamendi in the race for District 3. She managed to get 45.3% of the vote. She’s better equipped to win this time, she says.
“I’ve grown as a person, as a candidate, as a soon-to-be lawmaker and understanding the region more,” she said. “Since it’s my second rodeo, I’ve been in this place as a candidate. I’m coming back and showing them what we’ve accomplished and if you support me again, and actually bring more people along with us, then we can actually close this gap.”
Eight candidates are vying for the District 6 seat. Among them is Bera, who has served in Congress since 2013. Bera currently represents District 7, but is looking to swap newly redrawn districts with veteran Congresswoman Doris Matsui to stay in office. Hamilton is confident she can beat Bera.
“While he’s known, what is he known for? What impacts and what changes has he made that you and I could talk about right now?” she asks.
“At the end of the day, people are looking for lawmakers that are present, that are not afraid to talk about the issues, that are not solely bending the knee to their party. They want people that want to work together,” Hamilton continued.
Democrats currently have the political majority.
Black And Republican
Hamilton says being Black and Republican is viewed as less an anomaly in her native Maryland as she has seen in California. She has relatives who are Democrats and Republicans.
“It never was a thing. We didn’t talk about politics growing up,” she said. “It was just you vote where you want to vote.”
The only time the family talked about voting, she said, was when it “was time to vote for Barack Obama.” Obama, the country’s first Black president, was clearly Democrat, but their support of him was universal.
“You had his picture up, everybody had their (Michelle) Obama purse,” she said of the fervor surrounding that time in history.
“Whoever is the president, we support the president and then we move on, we go on with our lives,” she said of Obama’s Republican successor, Donald Trump.
Trump’s actions as president have been called racially charged and divisive. Many African Americans called him “45,” refusing to acknowledge his leadership. Black Republicans were called out for being supporters of Trump and his efforts to “make America great again.”
Black Republicans often got the side-eye even before Trump took office.
“It’s because of the lack of engagement,” Hamilton said. “This is something I stress all the time. They’re not out there; they’re not in the community. You’re not going to get the support if you don’t have a relationship. The Republican Party as a whole has a lot of work to do.”
Doing her part, she says, means getting out there and “meeting people where they are.”
Strong Black Women
California has some solid Black women in Congress with Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, all Democrats with proven track records of serving the state and being responsive to the needs of the Black community.
“I think they’re all strong,” Hamilton said. “God knows, being a woman and being in government is hard. I would never want to take that away from them. I’m sure that there’s wisdom that I could take from each one of them being in the position that they’re in. Obviously, we’re not always going to get along from a political standpoint, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find common ground and work together to help the American people.”
Hamilton is getting help from her campaign manager, Micah Grant. Grant is a Natomas Unified School District (NUSD) Board Trustee, has worked with both the California Assembly and the state senate and was a part of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration.
“I’ve learned so much from him and the 14-15 years that he’s been doing this,” Hamilton shared. “He too has been a lifelong Republican, raised in a Republican household and that’s where I get a lot of my wisdom from on how to navigate through this world because this is not some ‘well-oiled machine.’”
Participation in the political process matters, Hamilton says.
“The biggest thing for me is just doing my part in my district, being an example for Black women and being an example for my daughter, because we live in a world where they just don’t want us to be here, so I just encourage people to get involved, regardless of what party they’re in, because we need representation, we do. We desperately do.”
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
While Blacks demand a seat at the table, some still aren’t willing to share the space.
“They make it so that people are afraid to even run,” Hamilton said. “I always tell people that if I didn’t have the amazing team that I have, I would not be here. That’s what I mean by making it hard for us to be here, because it is for rich people. It is for people that have the influence or have the political clout.”
“Regular” people, she says, often find themselves on the outside looking in. Many are surprised when she shows up.
“A lot of them haven’t seen a Black woman run in a long time, or at all,” she shared.
“This should be normal. I have so much support from people locally. I have people hosting fundraisers for me because once they meet me, it’s just ‘Where have you been?’ They want someone that understands where they’re coming from. They want someone that can transcend party lines.”
Hamilton admits that being a Republican and being on “the other team” has earned her foes among other politically active Black women.
“There’s opposition on both sides. Those are the realities of the game, but I don’t take it to heart, I just keep pressing,” she said. “Where we are today, we have to move forward. I cannot undo the past. Both parties have their issues. When we have the opportunity to make things right, we just have to do that.
“Obviously, we don’t want to repeat mistakes or continue to live in a divided nation, but people are people and you’re not gonna make everybody happy.”
There are people who will say Hamilton “isn’t Black enough” and in some spaces she’s “too Black.”
“You’re just not going to win with them in every scenario,” she said. “You just do your best to help in any capacity you can when you get in a position like I’m trying to get into.”
She chooses to stay positive.
“It’s not to say we don’t acknowledge things, but there’s some things we cannot undo. I can’t and I will never make excuses for the party in any way,” she said. “All I can do is my part in the district. I’m going to meet people where they are and I’m going to help people. I don’t care what side you’re on.”