September 27, 2004

JUST A TYPICAL REPUBLICAN:

The Contender
Melvin Bilal is an attorney, a Republican, and a Muslim, and might be the next 6th District City Council representative—if he can beat incumbent Stephanie Rawlings Blake (Christina Royster-Hemby, Baltimore City Paper)

[R]awlings Blake is being challenged for her seat by Republican Baltimore attorney Melvin Bilal, who has been running ads on local radio stations to introduce himself to city voters. He says that accountability in local government is important to his campaign.

“I want people to hold me accountable,” Bilal says. “If in four years I don’t do what I say I’m going to do, then kick me out. This is what we should do for all politicians. If they’re not doing their job, they should go. And that is true for Stephanie Rawlings Blake.”

Bilal is an African-American man, who happens to be a Muslim and a Republican. He was the Maryland Republican Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 1986.

When asked how he reconciles being a Muslim and also a conservative, Bilal is quick to correct: “You assume that I’m a conservative Republican, I didn’t say that,” says Bilal, who was a staunch Democrat while growing up in the predominantly Republican town of Greenburg, N.Y., in the late ’60s. During that time, he says, he championed the Democratic cause tirelessly.

“At that time, Republicans fought a lot of civil-rights battles in the ’60s,” he says. “We had what we called ‘liberal Republicans.’ Now the party has changed.”

He says that these days being a black Republican makes good sense.

“People get too emotional about these parties,” Bilal says. “They should be used to benefit the constituents and individuals that join the party and those that they are concerned about.”

As an African-American, he says, “there’s no guarantee that either party will benefit us. No black [Democrat] has been elected [to statewide office] in Maryland, nor have they even run. The Democrats in that sense haven’t helped us.”

Bilal’s résumé is as diverse as his views: He owned and served as president and chief executive of a security firm called Security America Services for 22 years, and today he is an attorney who practices personal-injury and general-practice law for men who have been in prison. He also volunteers his legal services for Baltimore drug-treatment organization I Can’t, We Can. He’s chaired the foundation board of Coppin State College, been an assistant professor at Catonsville Community College, was a first lieutenant and military police officer in the U.S. Army, and currently sits on Provident Bank’s board of directors.

Today Bilal is focusing on the city’s needs, especially those of the 6th District. He says he’s most concerned about education, vacant homes, and instilling pride in the community.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 27, 2004 9:50 AM
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