If the 2018 elections proved anything, it’s that America is indeed ready for diversity. A Somalian American was elected, as was a Muslim American (both women) and change came to many communities across the country with women and people of color taking government positions in unprecedented numbers.
Out of West Virginia comes the story of Caleb Hanna, 19. Hanna, the West Virginia State University student who at 19 became the youngest African American to be elected to a state legislature, is a pro-life Christian Republican who says that he was inspired by former President Barack Obama. According to the Christian Post, Hanna was elected last November to the West Virginia House of Delegates as a Republican, on a platform of investing more state funds in career and technical education.
“I’m proudly a Christian conservative and was raised on the belief that success is built with hard work, commitment and dedication – West Virginia values that continue to guide me today,” he told the Register Herald before his election in November. He beat three-term incumbent, Webster County Democrat Dana Lynch, 1,306 to 874 in the fragmented 44th District. In a recent interview with the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he explained that his political philosophy is driven by “God, guns and babies,” and his worldview is informed by his faith. He was an active member of the Christian organization Young Life at Richwood High School and worships at the Little Laurel Baptist. He is also dating the daughter of a pastor at another church.
The teenager, who is majoring in economics at West Virginia State University, told WJLS that he wants to serve in government for as long as he believes his efforts are having a positive impact on people’s lives. “I first got interested in politics in the third grade,” he told the Gazette-Mail.
“Here was this charismatic Black man who rose to be president of the United States. I thought, ‘I can do that.’” Hanna said he grew disenchanted with Obama, however, after his father was laid off “in the mines.” He said Obama’s policies were bad for West Virginia so when he was old enough to register to vote he registered as a Republican. Hanna, who was raised by a white family in a predominantly white area, says even though he is fully aware that racism remains a problem in America, he believes, “There’s room for everyone in the GOP.” He remained undaunted when he became the target of flyers containing racist claims, which were enclosed in a zip lock bag filled with birdseed. The bags were tossed into the yards of several homes that had his campaign signs, the Gazette-Mail said.