Born on November 21, 1964 in Brooklyn, New York, Yvette Diane Clarke studied political science and public policy at Oberlin College from 1982-86 but failed to graduate. Prior to launching her political career, she worked variously as an executive assistant for NYS assemblywoman Barbra Clark, as a director of business development for the Bronx Empowerment Zone, and as a childcare specialist/daycare coordinator with the Brooklyn-based Erasmus Neighborhood Federation.
From 2001-06, Clarke, a Democrat, represented the New York City Council’s 40th District—a post in which she succeeded her own mother, Una Clarke, who had held that position for more than a decade. In 2006 Yvette Clarke was elected to represent New York’s 11th Congressional District—renumbered as the 9th District seven years later—in the U.S. House of Representatives. She has been re-elected to this seat every two years since 2006 and is currently a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. At one time she also belonged to the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
During her legislative career, Clarke’s pro-abortion-rights stance has consistently earned her 100% ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, indicating that her votes on issues related to abortion and women’s health align perfectly with the positions of those organizations. Similarly, Clarke has routinely been rated 95-to-100% by Americans for Democratic Action; 92-to-100% by the ACLU; 86-to-94% by Peace Action; 92-to-100% by the League of Conservation Voters; and a perfect 100% by immigration groups like the Hispanic Federation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mi Familia Vota, the National Council of La Raza, and Voto Latino. Conversely, she has received low ratings from organizations devoted to strengthening the rights of the unborn, border integrity, national security, and the Second Amendment—e.g., 0% from the National Right-to-Life Committee, 0% from Numbers USA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform; 0-to-7% from the Center for Security Policy; and 0% from Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association.
In response to an August 2011 Associated Press report noting that New York City police officers were secretly monitoring bookstores, cafes, and nightclubs frequented by Muslims—and that informants known as “crawlers” were reporting on suspicious conduct in local mosques—Clarke, who sat on the U.S. Homeland Security Committee, condemned these law-enforcement practices and wondered aloud whether police might likewise be infiltrating Baptist churches for no logical reason.
In an April 2012 candidate forum, Clarke stated that the Republican-controlled Congress’s newly unveiled federal budget was replete with draconian spending cuts that would cause “everything that we need to really underpin and undergird our civil society”—“things like aid to women, infant (sic) and children … food stamps … [and] EPA standards”—to be “slashed” and “dismantled.” Moreover, Clarke characterized the conservative Tea Party movement as a haven for “crazy” individuals representing “the ugliest sides of the United States of America”; as a movement whose members had “no problems with [hurling] racial epithets and “no problem with cursing, spitting and everything else” at their political and ideological adversaries; and as an alliance of people “who, for whatever reason, feel like something is being taken away from them when we give [through taxpayer-funded programs] to others.” But “you have to save them from themselves despite those inclinations on their side,” Clarke reasoned.
During a September 2012 television appearance on The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert said to Clarke: “Some have called Brooklyn’s decision to become part of New York City ‘The Great Mistake of 1898.’ If you could get in a time machine and go back to 1898, what would you say to those Brooklynites?” “I would say to them, ‘Set me free,’” Clarke replied. When Colbert asked what she would be free from, the black congresswoman responded, “Slavery.” “Slavery. Really?” Colbert countered. “I didn’t realize there was slavery in Brooklyn in 1898.” “I’m pretty sure there was,” Clarke responded. “It sounds like a horrible part of the United States that kept slavery going until 1898,” Colbert said with some amusement. “Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?” To this, Clarke responded, “The Dutch.”
In December 2014, Clarke joined fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus in expressing outrage at the New York and Missouri grand juries that recently had elected not to indict two white police officers who had killed African Americans Eric Garner and Michael Brown in separate, highly publicized incidents that were turned into racially charged media circuses by the Obama/Holder Justice Department and civil-rights activists like Al Sharpton. Clarke suggested that the slain men’s families should be invited to attend President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address in January 2015, saying: “It would be good that we put a face to the injustices that have occurred as a result of the criminal-justice system that hasn’t been lifted to a point of colorblindness.”
One Saturday in December 2015, Clarke’s deputy chief of staff, Wendy Anderson, came into Clarke’s Washington office and caught the congresswoman’s part-time IT aide, Abid Awan, rummaging through all manner of computers and electronic equipment. Awan’s brother, Imran Awan, was a suspected Pakistani spy who had long been employed as an IT specialist by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a number of other House Democrats. Anderson promptly told Abid Awan to get out of Clarke’s office, and later told Capitol Hill investigators of her suspicion that Clarke’s chief of staff, Shelley Davis, was working with Awan on a theft scheme; thus she pushed for his firing. But according to a June 2018 Daily Caller report:
“Clarke did not fire Abid until six months after the congresswoman formally acknowledged that $120,000 in equipment was missing, records show — not until after House investigators independently announced a review that would potentially catch financial discrepancies. Even then, Anderson told investigators she believed another top staffer in Clarke’s office was subverting their efforts…. Four months later, Anderson took a job with another congressional office. Clarke’s office declined to say under what terms she left. Abid [Awan] … and his brothers, fellow IT workers Imran Awan and Jamal Awan,… [t]ogether … had access to all the emails and files of 1 in 5 House Democrats. Members like Clarke have refused to discuss the case.
In February 2017, Clarke stated that the presidency of the newly elected Donald Trump was the product of an “illegally hacked [by Russia], illegitimate election,” and that it “won’t be long” before Trump would be impeached.
For an overview of Clarke’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Yvette Clarke, click here.
Further Reading: “Yvette Clarke’s Biography” (Votesmart.org); “Yvette Clarke’s Ratings and Endorsements” (Votesmart.org); “Rep. Yvette Clark on Tea Party: ‘The Ugliest Side of the United States of America’” (TheBlaze.com, 4-25-2012); “Black Caucus: Invite Brown, Garner Families to State of the Union” (Newsmax.com, 12-5-2014); “Dem Chief of Staff Tried to Expose Suspected Theft Ring on Capitol Hill, Was Met with Resistance (Daily Caller, 6-24-2018); “‘It Won’t Be Long’—Brooklyn Congresswoman Predicts Donald Trump’s Impeachment Is Near” (Observer.com, 2-23-2017).