Marcia L. Fudge was born on October 29, 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned a BS in Business Administration from Ohio State University in 1975, and a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 1983. Prior to entering politics, she worked variously as a law clerk, an attorney, an auditor for the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Estate Tax Department, and a director of that same county’s Personal Property Tax Department.
Fudge served as chief-of-staff for U.S. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Democrat, Ohio) from 1999-2001, and as mayor of Warrensville Heights—a mostly African-American suburb of Cleveland—from January 2000 until November 18, 2008. On that latter date, Fudge won a special congressional election to fill the vacancy created by the recent death of Rep. Tubbs Jones, and she held that seat until 2021, when President Joe Biden appointed her as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. During her years in Congress, Fudge was a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus (which she chaired from 2013-15) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Viewing the United States as a country awash in racism and sexism, Fudge is not averse to portraying her political and ideological opponents as bigots and misogynists. In November 2012, for instance, she reacted indignantly when Senator John McCain and other Republicans asserted that America’s United Nations Ambassador, Susan Rice (an African-American), was “incompetent” for having knowingly and repeatedly mischaracterized the details surrounding the September 11, 2012 Islamic terrorist attacks against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. “It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities,” Fudge told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference. The comments by McCain and other Republicans, she said, were evidence of “clear sexism and racism.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press in July 2013, Fudge denounced the Florida jury that rendered “not guilty” verdicts on murder and manslaughter charges against George Zimmerman, a “white Hispanic” who in February 2012 had shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that made national headlines. Characterizing Zimmerman’s acquittal as evidence that blacks in the United States “are being attacked from so many sides,” Fudge called for “a broader discussion … [about] how we are treating minority people in this country.” As further evidence of racial injustice, the congresswoman cited also the recent Supreme Court decision that she said had “gutted” the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). In reality, the 2013 Court ruling merely struck down, as anachronistic, a VRA provision requiring mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before being permitted to change their election laws in any way (e.g., by instituting Voter ID requirements or reconfiguring their voting districts).
In early December 2014, Fudge expressed outrage over a recent grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer who had fatally shot a black teenager named Michael Brown during a confrontation that past summer in Ferguson, Missouri. From the House floor, Fudge denounced the verdict as “yet another slap in our [black people’s] face,” “a blatant miscarriage of justice,” and “a painful reminder that … law enforcement officers kill our black and brown men and boys without repercussions.” Warning that “we [blacks] are running out of patience,” the congresswoman condemned the grand jury for having failed to offer “some reassurance that black and brown boys’ lives do matter,” and for failing to take seriously “the outrage and desperation of the black community.” “We must first acknowledge that we have a race issue that we are not addressing,” Fudge emphasized. “We must have open, honest, transparent conversations about prejudice, racism, and racial threat.”
Shortly after the November 2014 midterm elections in which Democrats had lost control of the Senate and lost a number of House seats as well, Fudge attributed the disappointing results to the fact that “our party has, to some extent, lost white Southerners due in part to the race of our President.” She also blamed a lack of enthusiasm in the Latino community, which she said “was insufficiently motivated.” By contrast, said Fudge, black activists had done more than their fair share on behalf of Democrats: “Our community organizations and churches mobilized to encourage early voting opportunities … Black elected officials crisscrossed the country to discuss the urgency and importance of this election. We phone banked, knocked on doors and held ‘Get Out the Vote’ rallies. Our losses were not a referendum on African American political engagement. We did our part, so don’t blame us!”
In April 2020, as the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy and American life, Fudge appeared on a Joe Biden presidential campaign livestream where the topic of discussion was the fact that black Americans were contacting the virus in disproportionately high numbers. Said Fudge: “Black people have always been aware of systemic and institutional racism. COVID-19 just proved to the rest of the country that it exists. […] If we do not elect Joe Biden, we will not recover in my lifetime. I’m not being dramatic, I’m being honest. We would never be in this place had we had a real leader in the White House. If Joe Biden were there, this [pandemic] would have been handled very, very differently.” Dismissing the notion that black people were “predisposed” to catch the virus because of underlying co-morbidities, Fudge stated: “You know, they talk about underlying health conditions, but we’re not the only people that have them. We live in a country that is obese, not just black people. Heart disease is still the number one killer in this country, not just [of] black people.”
In April 2020 as well, Fudge said that the government, when deciding which businesses should be prioritized for reopening amid the COVID pandemic, had chosen to first approve the reopening of businesses that were relatively inexpensive for people to patronize – so as to coerce black people to quickly squander their government-issued COVID relief checks: “You know, they opened the beauty salons and the barbershops and the bowling alleys and the movie theaters…. Because they’re just opening up the things black people go to because they know we’ve got these checks and they want us to spend them. They don’t care about our safety.”
In January 2013, Fudge was livid at Republican legislators who had voted to cut funding for food stamps by $16.5 billion over the next 10 years. Said Fudge: “These same people [Republicans] believe if you do not work, you are lazy. These same people believe that if your children don’t get a good education, something is wrong with you. These are the craziest people I have seen in my life. Just absolute nuts. They don’t understand that the government’s job is to take care of its people…. These people [Republicans] are evil and mean. They care nothing about anybody but themselves.”
In June 2019, Fudge went to the House floor and read a letter from one of her constituents in Ohio, where the writer stated: “It is glaringly apparent that many who support the president’s [Donald Trump’s] administration are either racists, steeped in religious beliefs, ignorant, or as my mother used to say, just plain dumb.”
From 2012-20, Fudge, through her membership in CBC, had a noteworthy relationship with the Chinese Communist Party. As a February 2021 exposé in The National Pulse reports: “For over a decade, the [C]aucus has maintained a relationship with the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a Chinese government-backed group recently exposed … for sponsoring trips to China for journalists and politicians” in exchange for: (a) “favorable coverage,” and (b) being “part of the country’s United Front efforts ‘to co-opt and neutralize sources of opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’ and encourage ‘positions supportive of Beijing’s preferred policies.’”
In 2012, the CUSEF launched its African American Students Exchange Program (AASEP) as an initiative designed to work “in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus.” Funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education, the AASEP program, during its first 9 years, hosted more than 750 U.S. students – many selected from specially targeted congressional districts of certain CBC members – for two-week summer visits to China, where they visited state-run universities and state ministries in order to learn about such matters as China’s “language, history, culture, economic development, [and] clean energy” initiatives. Between 2012-21, participants in the AASEP included students from the districts of CBC members like Marcia Fudge, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Hank Johnson, G.K. Butterfield, Gregory Meeks, and Charles Rangel. (For additional information on AASEP, click here.)
Students in the AASEP program also visit the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), which is led by China’s Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong. According to the U.S. State Department, the CPAFFC is “avowedly an arm of the [Chinese Communist] party-state” and aims to “directly and malignly influence” U.S. officials to promote China’s global agenda. In November 2013, Rep. Fudge welcomed Yandong to Washington and thanked her for China’s “generous award to CBC districts” — a financial award that would help “provid[e] 400 young scholars the opportunity to experience studying in China, one of the world’s leaders in global commerce, industry, culture and education.”
Notably, a number of elected CBC members have personally accepted all-expenses-paid trips from the CUSEF. In August 2013, for instance, Fudge led a 10-person CBC delegation to China, where they met with high-level Chinese Communist Party leaders.
In October 2017, Fudge wrote a letter of support on behalf of Lance Mason, a former county judge and state senator who in 2014 had beaten his wife, Aisha Fraser Mason, so badly that her face required reconstructive surgery. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mason had punched the woman twenty times and slammed her head against the dashboard of his automobile five times, breaking the orbital bone of her eye socket. Wrote Fudge in her 2017 letter: “Lance accepts full responsibility for his actions and has assured me that something like this will never happen again. Lance Mason is a good man who made a very bad mistake. I can only hope that you [the court that was sentencing him] can see in Lance what I and others see.” On November 17, 2018, Lance Mason was arrested as he fled the scene where Aisha had just been stabbed to death. In response to this news, Fudge said: “The person who committed these crimes is not the Lance Mason familiar to me. They were horrific crimes, and I condemn them. I and everyone who knew Aisha are mourning her loss.”
After Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced in July 2018 that she planned to step down from her post as chair of the Democratic National Committee, Fudge was named as the permanent chair of the Democratic National Convention which was slated to take place in Philadelphia during July 25-28.
On December 10, 2020, President Joe Biden nominated Fudge for the post of U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Fudge was eventually confirmed by the Senate on March 10, 2021, in a vote of 66-34.
In her confirmation HUD hearing before the Senate in February 2021, Fudge explained to Republican Senator Tom Cotton exactly what she meant by “equity” (legislating equal results) — and she made sure to distinguish the term from “equality” (treating everyone the same regardless of ethnic or racial affiliation). “From my own perspective,” she said, “the difference is that one [equality] just means that you treat everybody the same…. Sometimes the same is not equitable.” Fudge then proceeded to elucidate her points with examples:
“You know if you say to me that I’m going to give you five dollars so you’re going to give my friend five dollars, my five dollars is not necessarily going to go as far because my friend already has a mother and father who is wealthy and they’re giving them.
“Let’s just do it this way… Homeownership, let’s take it that way. They say let’s make everything equal. But it’s not equal because even though I may meet all of the qualifications to qualify for a loan, you know, I’ve got the right credit scores, et cetera, but I don’t have down payment money because my parents can’t afford to give me down payment money. There is no wealth coming to me.
“Equity means making the playing field level… Sometimes it’s not level if you just say, ‘Let’s just treat everybody the same.’”
For an overview of Fudge’s voting record on a wide array of key issues, click here.