Earlier this year, the GOP released a self-generated autopsy report about what went wrong in the 2012 presidential elections, and how they failed to pick up any considerable percentage of votes from people of color. It urged the party to adopt the best practices recommendations of think tanks that have been researching how they can better diversify their ranks. They took some steps, opening offices of "African-American engagement" in North Carolina, and the same for Asian-Americans in Virginia. But the implementation hasn't been without its missteps: Last week, the Republican National Committee celebrated Rosa Parks, releasing a statement, "We remember and honor Rosa Parks today for the role she played in fighting racism and ending segregation. At the same time we rededicate ourselves to the causes of justice and equal opportunity." And then the RNC tweeted that racism ended with Parks's defiant stand. And then there's the Tea Party rallies in front of the White House featuring the Confederate flag. It's been a clunky start to say the least.
However, a new crop of black Republicans are rising with the hope they can turn their party around on race. In running for Congress in next year's mid-term elections, they are essentially saying to their party, "You're rededicated to equal opportunity? Prove it. Help get us elected." The proof will come in the form of how much money the party and its benefactors put behind these candidates, and of course, in how many Republican voters actually come out to support them. I spoke with four African-American candidates running for Congress next year under the GOP mantle. Hear 'em out:
David Earl Williams III is seeking Illinois's District 9 seat in the House of Representatives (covering parts of Chicago) currently held by Democrat Jan Schakowsky. Facebook followers: 6,405. Twitter: 472. Recent Tweet:
-- David Williams III (@DEWforCongress) December 4, 2013
Why should we look out for you in 2014? At 30 years old, I'm young and I come from a working-poor family with a real understanding of what common people go through. People get to D.C. and they let the power go to their head and forget about the plight of common people, but what I'm running on is reducing national debt, and also real immigration reform, meaning securing the border, and legalization, not citizenship, but legalization of immigrants here through a work permit or study visa, or for military service. But not citizenship.
Summarize your campaign in one hashtag. #fun
What does the GOP need to improve upon to attract more people of color? I would say you have to get rid of the Republican In Name Onlys, or what's called RINOs. And also, what the Democratic party is good at is they say that Republicans are racist, white people, so you need to put more people from different backgrounds out there to represent the party -- and not just anyone off the streets, but people who actually promote the values that Republicans believe in.
What's one thing people of color most misunderstand about the GOP in your opinion? Well, that they hate the poor. They don't. When it comes to charity, people who consider themselves Republicans donate far more than anyone who calls themselves a Democrat. And they say we hate welfare, but that's not true. if you create an atmosphere where you have less taxation and less regulation then the jobs start there.
What do you think of the RNC's Rosa Parks Tweet about ending racism? This is first time I heard of that.
The Congressional Black Caucus: Friend or foe? You know I'm of African-American heritage, but I look at people all the same. I would prefer to join the Liberty Caucus. I won't look at anyone in Congress as my foe, though, unless people are trying to undermine liberty and those things that promote equality. We're friends as long as you are trying to promote equality by looking at people based on what they're worth, not based on skin color, gender or sexual orientation, but by their abilities.
Gloreatha "Glo" Smith: Seeking Florida's District Five seat (Jacksonville) currently held by Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat. Facebook: 662. Twitter: 103. Recent Tweet: [Ed. Note: The @GloForCongress account was de-activated shortly before publication.]
Why should we look out for you in 2014? My candidacy is exciting because the constituents finally have an opportunity to choose an alternative U.S. representative that understands the plight faced in the district. I was born in the projects, and grew up in the poorest part of Jacksonville. I recall standing in line with my mother at the government food distribution trucks parked in our neighborhood waiting for handouts of canned meat and cheese. Thankfully, with the moral support of family and church, I was inspired to excel beyond those conditions and eventually received my MBA degree as an adult. I'm running because the high unemployment rate and lack of job opportunities greatly impact the constituents. This has resulted in high crime rates, lower graduation levels, and an even higher number of families living in poverty over the last 20 years. My goal is to utilize my experience to create meaningful careers for all district constituents willing and able to work.
Summarize your campaign in one hashtag. #TogetherWeCanDoBetter!
What do you think of the RNC's Rosa Parks Tweet about ending racism? I respectfully disagree with the tweet, because racism exists within many ethic groups nationwide, and especially around the world. The valor of Rosa Parks help shaped the freedoms that Americans enjoy today, and her act of courage is a beacon of hope to many races, cultures, and the religiously oppressed people around the world.
Congressional Black Caucus: Friend or foe? As the trend of black Republicans continue to increase in number, I believe that the CBC will be more inclusive in its representation of all African-Americans interests. The CBC should be instrumental in helping to elect America's first black female Republican to Congress. Our generation can celebrate a historic moment in history if just one of five such candidates currently running wins.
What do you think about Florida's law that bans ex-felons from voting, especially as it impacts African-Americans? I believe that if a Floridian successfully pays their debt to society, he or she should have an opportunity to apply for a restoration of civil rights.
-- Brenda Lenard (@brendalenardtn) November 19, 2013
Why should we look out for you in 2014? My life is a testament of the American dream. I know and understand the American traditions of hard work, community service and strong values very well, because those are the same values I was born, raised and educated with. Once elected, my American values and common sense [will be] a testament to the work I strive to accomplish such as the promotion of individual liberty, economic opportunity and a smaller federal government. Finally, I believe in America and the people which make up this great nation.
Summarize your campaign in one hashtag: #Better.Brighter.Bolder
What does the GOP need to improve upon to attract more people of color? The Conservative message does not need to be altered, however they should consider individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds for their branding and messaging.
What's one thing people of color most misunderstand about the GOP in your opinion? [That] the GOP is exclusively comprised [sic] of old, Caucasian males that do not embrace the American worker or their families.
What do you think of the RNC's Rosa Parks Tweet about ending racism? Though Jim Crow laws are no longer in effect, racism in many segments still exists.
Congressional Black Caucus: Friend or foe? Friend--I have no enemies.
-- Katrina for Congress (@KatrinaPierson) November 23, 2013
Why should we look out for you in 2014? This particular campaign challenges the status quo on all levels. There's stigma among Republicans that they're all white, old and male, and there's stigma from the Democrats who say that the Tea Party are all white, angry racists. So, my campaign shutters all preconceived notions about Republicans and the Tea Party in general.
Summarize your campaign in one hashtag: #AmericansFirst and #NoMoreExcuses
What does the GOP need to improve upon to attract more people of color? Well, when you look at their own autopsy report, it states that they struggle most among voters who are single mothers, women and minorities. As someone who checks off all of those boxes, if Republicans are seen as just white, rich men and they know they have these demographic issues then they should put more people like me in office. Our problem isn't our message, it's our messengers.
What's one thing people of color most misunderstand about the GOP in your opinion? Growing up, we're told that Republicans are all about the rich getting richer and making the poor get poorer, and Republicans haven't gone into communities to confront that message head on. Meanwhile, policies from liberals maintain the status quo that keep people poor, and that's what we have to get away from. We need Republican candidates who aren't afraid to go into communities and take those messages on while explaining what conservative values are really all about.
Congressional Black Caucus: Friend or foe? I don't consider them either because I don't know any of them well enough to determine that. But I do intend to join the Congressional Black Caucus. [Former Florida Rep.] Allen West was a CBC member, and I consider him a friend. But, I wouldn't blanket label all of them as friend or foe.