Hansen Clarke (born March 2, 1957 ) is a politician from the U.S. state of Michigan . He is a Democratic member of the Michigan Senate, representing the 1st District since 2003. Previously he was a member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 1991 through 1992, and from 1999 through 2002. He then served in the Michigan Senate, representing the 1st District from January 1, 2003 to January 3, 2011. Clarke is also the first U.S. Congressman of Bangladeshi descent.
Early life and education
Hansen Clarke was born in Detroit , Michigan to a Bangladeshi father and American mother. He grew up in the city's lower east side. His mother had to work as a crossing guard to try and make ends meet. Hansen's journey out of poverty began in the third grade when an observant school teacher recognized his artistic ability and urged his mother Thelma to provide him with lessons. Private lessons were out of the question on a crossing guard's salary. However, being a resourceful person, she was able to arrange for the Detroit Institute of Arts to pay for the lessons through a grant. From there, Clarke went on to high school at Cass Tech, and then was admitted to a prestigious east-coast prep school to complete his high school.
Hard work and innate artistic ability eventually lead to a scholarship offer from Cornell University . During his time there, he received the devastating news that his mother Thelma had died. "I felt that I was alone as a person," said Clarke. "I can see now how all of that impacted the person I became. That's why I'm so quick to protect other people. When I see someone alone and vulnerable I can relate to what they are going through
Clarke worked through that pain, and graduated with a degree in fine arts. However, while there, he became interested in politics when was troubled by how few minorities there were on campus. Concerned that the university might be moving away from providing need-based scholarships to disadvantaged students, he decided to run for the student seat on the Cornell University Board of Trustees. After beating out another political dynamo, Ann Coulter, he with served with great distinction throughout his senior year. His undergraduate success led to his membership in the Quill and Dagger society.
After his time at Cornell, Hansen Clarke decided to pursue a career in law. He was accepted into Georgetown Law School where he graduated in 1984 with a Juris Doctor.
Hansen Clarke worked as chief of staff to U.S. Representative John Conyers, as well as in Wayne County during the administration of Edward McNamara.
Clarke was first elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1990 and served one term before being defeated in the Democratic primary in 1992 by Joe Young Jr. In 1998 and 2000, Clarke was re-elected to the Michigan House.
Hansen Clarke was then elected to the Michigan Senate in 2002, defeating incumbent Senator Ray Murphy. After an unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2005, Senator Clarke was re-elected to his seat in the Senate in 2006.
Senator Clarke says he sees a disconnect between many Detroiters and their elected officials which he feels leads to a sense of powerlessness in much of the inner city community. "I want to inspire citizens that their government can help them. I know that sounds like rhetoric but I believe it." Senator Clarke serves as Minority Vice Chair of the Health Policy and Commerce and Tourism committees.
During his time in the Senate, Clarke has argued that voters need to hold their elected officials accountable, otherwise the problems of the inner city will not be properly addressed. "I tell my constituents that I want them to hold me accountable," says Clarke. "You don't normally see problems with blighted buildings or under-performing schools in the suburbs. That's because voters in the suburbs hold their elected officials accountable."
Another major issue the Senator has worked on is the divestment of the State of Michigan 's pension funds from the nation of Sudan . Ever since the genocide began in 2004, there has been an outcry to pull US assets out of the country. Seeing the continuing failure of the federal government to act, and seeing the continuing humanitarian crisis, Senator Clarke felt that it was time for the state of Michigan to act if the federal government would not. His legislation proposed in the State Senate, along with a similar bill in the House from Rep. Wheeler-Smith, would pull all monies from State pension funds out of companies that do business in the country of Sudan .
2010 election for U.S. House - District 13 (Democratic Primary)
Cheeks Kilpatrick, Carolyn (i)
2006 election for Michigan State Senate - Michigan 1st District
Hansen Clarke (D) (inc.)
Cynthia Cassell (R)
2006 election for Michigan State Senate - Michigan 1st District (Democratic primary)
Hansen Clarke (inc.)
Lamar Lemmons, III
2002 election for Michigan State Senate - Michigan 1st District
Hansen Clarke (D)
Cynthia Cassell (R)
2002 election for Michigan State Senate - Michigan 1st District (Democratic primary)