Political party: Democrat
Relationship status: Married
When inspiration hits Rep. Hansen Clarke, not much can stop him. During a recent interview, he scrambles around his Washington office, snagging a notebook and a blue pen to demonstrate the sketching he sometimes does to escape from whatever policy problem might be on his mind.
Within minutes, he produces several abstract drawings full of geometric shapes, paisleys, a human face.
“This may look like scribble to you,” he says, “but this is me, OK? And it opens me up and allows me, I know, to be a more effective representative.”
“Once I decided to be a lawyer, I dropped the art,” Clarke says. “All those years I didn’t do art, it got to me. There wasn’t a day out of the months out of the years that I didn’t draw, that I didn’t want to draw.”
It’s more of a pastime these days, because Clarke focuses most of his energy on turning around his hometown.
“I’m, like, on a mission here right now,” he says. “I’m from metro Detroit, you know what I mean?”
There’s a physical toll for such an intense focus. Clarke, a vegetarian, has added chicken back into his diet because he’s lost weight since arriving in Washington, a change he attributes to all of the walking he does around the Capitol. He denies himself most sugar to keep his mind clear (though he’s an avowed Snickers lover), and he rarely attends local social events unless he sees an opportunity for him to do his job better.
Clarke does relax, but mostly when back in Detroit. He hangs out with is wife, Choi Palms-Cohen, or reads. Books of choice include the Bible (“I’m more a New Testament guy”) and, as on one recent Sunday afternoon, a homeland security law and policy primer.