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Va. Elects Black to General Assebly

November 5, 1997

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ Paul Harris became the first black Republican elected to the General Assembly in more than a century Tuesday, winning the House of Delegates seat once held by Thomas Jefferson.

Harris, a 33-year-old lawyer, defeated Democrat Bruce Kirtley, an Albemarle County convenience store owner.

``It is fitting that hundreds of years later, that a child of the projects is holding Jefferson’s seat,″ said Harris. ``It’s a fitting tribute to the Jeffersonian principles that this country was founded on, that we are all created equal.″

With 70 percent of the votes counted, Harris had 9,242 votes, or 64 percent, to 5,128 votes, or 36 percent, for Kirtley.

Harris grew up in the projects of Charlottesville. His mother, who worked two jobs, sold the family car so she could send him to private school. He went on to Hampton University and George Washington Univeristy’s law school.

Harris said his tough climb to success will make it easier for the GOP to sell policies like welfare reform.

``It lends a great deal of credibility to what Republicans have been saying all along,″ Harris said.

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