New face of GOP: T.W. Shannon, first black speaker of OK Statehouse, moving fast

By Brendan Thomas

“People focus too much on race,” says T.W. Shannon, a sixth-generation Oklahoman and member of the Chickasaw Nation. What’s more important, he says, is “what you believe and how you’re going to govern.”

At just 34, Tahrohon Wayne Shannon is Oklahoma’s first African American Speaker of the House, its youngest ever, and the first African American Republican speaker in the country since Reconstruction, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

He’s also part of the Republican Party’s effort to advance a more diverse public face, after America elected — then re-elected — its first black president. Last November, Barack Obama won 93 percent of black voters and 60 percent of those under 30 years old, sending the GOP a clear message that it needs to break down demographic barriers.

GOPAC, an organization “dedicated to educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders,” invited Shannon to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban D.C. over the weekend.

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