Two Black candidates from Concord come at politics from the right

  • Samuel Bahuma stands outside his home on North State Street on Friday. He’s running in Concord’s Ward 3.

  •  Claude Bongambe works at New Hampshire State Hospital and is running in Concord’s Ward 9. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 10/19/2020 6:13:09 PM

Samuel Bahuma and Claude Bongambe have much in common.

Both are Congolese natives and refugees, meaning war and death were once a regular part of their lives. They’re both running for the New Hampshire House next month.

And both lean hard right, believing that the Black Lives Matter movement ignores a huge swath of American society. In fact, these two Black men say, BLM is a baseless entity. It’s fake news.

“All lives matter,” Bongambe told me by phone Friday. “Everyone has bad sides and good sides.”

“Why just Black people?” Bahuma asked. “Why not all people?”

Because, BLM supporters say, Black people are victims of a racist society. And that includes a nationwide police community that, all too often, has been seen – caught, really – on video killing or injuring unarmed Black people.

Bahuma and Bongambe are unique individuals, part of a counter-movement to the prevailing narrative that’s sweeping the country. The one that says racism is real and has been allowed to penetrate the country’s soul.

They are local representatives of a growing undercurrent, represented by former NFL star Herschel Walker, who’s Black, at the GOP Convention last summer, when Walker portrayed Trump as a man of dignity, devoid of racism.

They subscribe to an old Rush Limbaugh doctrine, about rugged individualism, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

Like Walker, Bahuma and Bongambe are big fans and supporters of Trump. They’re not concerned with being politically correct. They were critical of former Democratic presidential heavyweights Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both generally considered to be champions of the Black cause.

They see immigrants and asylum seekers and remind me that there are rules to follow to come here. They think food stamps and subsidized housing enable the poor.

“From the Congo, we notice Democrats give food stamps and everything to the people, but you need to work,” said Bongambe, who’s running for the Merrimack 18 (Ward 9) State Rep seat against Democrat Kris Schultz. “I need to work. If I stay home, no work, and the government does everything for me. What will that teach my grandkids?”

They’ll learn that their grandfather, an employee at the New Hampshire State Hospital, grew up with genocide and civil war and rape all around him. He turned passionate and loud when asked to remember, telling me, “They’re killing people and no peace and 300 women are raped a day by soldiers. Not a good country. It broke down, no food, no water, no electricity, no nothing, and people are suffering.”

He came here, to Concord, nine years ago through a refugee program, arriving in a city known to be inclusive. He brought his wife and three children, and has since had another child here.

He trusts Trump’s foreign policy instincts, strong and decisive, hopeful the president can bring peace to Bongambe’s homeland. He said “No” to the daily charges that Trump was racist. “I like the way he speaks and tells the people the truth,” Bongambe said.

Bongambe and the president agree that systemic racism is not part of the nation’s fabric. Evidence like the video of George Floyd – shown struggling for his life while a cop’s knee pushed hard on the back of his neck – is subjective. He did, however, concede that improvements are needed.

“Some police need some training because they’re scared when they see Black men,” Bongambe told me. “But in the Congo, we have Black police there who rape and Black people are killing Black people and you never read about that.”

Meanwhile, Bahuma’s past mirrors Bongambe’s in many ways. He saw brutal ethnic conflicts as well in Congo, during the 1990s, before he and his family fled to Uganda, to a refugee camp, for three years.

Bahuma settled here 15 years ago. He was a Democrat, an Obama supporter. Then Obama changed his mind, moving from a proponent of civil unions to a supporter of gay marriage.

Bahuma, who’s running in Merrimack 13 (Ward 3) against Democrat Beth Richards, answers to an even higher authority than Trump, using the Bible as his playbook to guide his politics. That’s why he believes Obama betrayed him.

Bahuma ran. To the other side.

“I decided to work for Trump, not because I supported him, but because I wanted to check out what was on the other side and see how he connects with people,” Bahuma told me.

He liked the GOP. So much so, in fact, that he helped create the New American Republican National Association, which has 1,500 Facebook followers and states, “Sharing the m(a)jor ideology of the American Revolution and stand with republican party.”

His belief that sexual orientation is a choice might make a chunk of the political spectrum run for cover. Yet, he boldly proclaimed his hope that, perhaps, his influence can help straighten out gay people.

“They have their choice,” Bahuma told me. “My goal is to preach the word of God and the morals for the people, how God wants us to be. I would not stand on TV and attack the gays. I’d be their friend, and maybe my behavior can change them.”

It’s a hard right stance, like questioning the worthiness and need for Black Lives Matter. People on the left insist BLM is a peaceful movement.

They admit some members turn violent, but they lay blame at the feet of law enforcement and a military presence that the left says created tension, verbal sparring and conflict. Law and order, critics say, was not a priority. Sending a message was.

The president disagrees. He thinks protesters and rioters are one and the same. He’s never subscribed to the theory that racism is a cancer in the police ranks.

He’s got two votes here, from a pair of Black candidates for the House who say racial strife in this country has been blown way out of proportion.

All lives matter, they reason.

“We cannot judge 1,000 and generalize that all cops are bad,” Bahuma said. “I’ve been in New Hampshire, and I’ve seen how hard police work. We’ve lost 10 police officers in Manchester.

“Why isn’t anyone talking about that.”




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