Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.)

U.S. Representative (since January 2011)

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Why He Matters

While Clarke is poised to pick up in Washington where he left off as a state lawmaker as an advocate for urban areas, he already cemented his legacy in the 2010 Democratic primary when he defeated Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), the matriarch of a fallen and once powerful Detroit political family.

The first Bangladeshi-American to be elected to Congress, Clarke successfully challenged the seven-term incumbent Kilpatrick who couldn't escape her connection with her son, the imprisoned former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. While Michigan will lose clout as the congresswoman was the state's only member on the House Appropriations Committee, Clarke said he could offer integrity and a focus on the taxpayer that Kilpatrick never offered.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: State Senator (2002-2010); State Representative (1998-2000, 1990-1992); Administrator, Wayne County (1993-1998); Chief of staff, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) (1989-1990)
  • Birthday: March 2, 1957
  • Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
  • Alma Mater: Cornell University, B.F.A. (1984); Georgetown University, J.D. (1987)
  • Spouse: Choi Palms-Cohen
  • Religion: Catholic
  • Committees: House Science and Technology Committee , House Homeland Security Committee

Path To Power

The son of an African-American Christian mother and a Muslim immigrant father from Bangladesh, Clarke was born in Detroit in 1957.

Clarke's father, a worker in a Ford foundry, died when Clarke was 8. Clarke's mother raised her son on a school crossing-guard's paycheck and food stamps. At age 9, Clarke witnessed a murder.

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The Issues

Clarke said he ran for Congress because he wanted to help one of the nation's poorest House districts. Among the issues he hopes to advance is reforming auto insurance, delaying home foreclosures and limiting bank discrimination based on class.

In June 2010, Clarke said he supported a proposal from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) c to make Detroit a tax-free zone, eliminating all federal, state and local taxes for ten years. Clarke said the loss of tax revenue should be offset by federal aid.

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The Network

Clarke formerly served as the chief of staff for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).