Rokita remark angers black lawmakers

Todd Rokita, Indiana Secretary of State
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Kevin Rader/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - An Indiana elected official is under fire after controversial comments he made regarding African-American voters. Many Indiana lawmakers are speaking out against comments made by Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita reflected Monday over comments he made last Thursday night in Washington, Indiana. Speaking before the annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner, Rokita was reported in the Washington Times-Herald as saying that African Americans vote 90 percent Democrat and he questioned why. "How can that be?" Rokita said. "90 to 10. Who's the master and who's the slave in that relationship? How can that be healthy?"

"What I was doing was emphasizing with many African-Americans in my generation who have faced intense pressure from inside their community and outside their community anytime they tried to show any degree of political individualism. That is unhealthy. It diminishes us as a people and it's something the Republican party has a strong history of fighting against. My intentions were honorable," Rokita said.

Reaction by African-American lawmakers on the floor of the House was swift.

"I am appalled. I am appalled that a state leader could make a statement like this. I think he needs to be called on the carpet for this one," said Rep. Carolene Mays (D-Indianapolis).

"It would appear that Mr. Rokita attended the Imus school of public relations with African-Americans and other minorities," said Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary).

Shock jock Don Imus was fired from his national syndicated radio show after making racially insensitive remarks.

"I am sincere when I say if I offended anybody then I ask their forgiveness for what was an insensitive metaphor but the issue is still very real and we have to address it. It is time we have a frank discussion about race in this country and in this state," said Rokita.

"He said it was a master-slave relationship. A master-slave relationship implies compulsion. That people are not acting on their own free will. That when they go to the polls to vote they vote they way they are told," said Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis).

Rep. Crawford disputes that, saying Indiana has more African-American Republicans than any other state in the country.