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The Voice of the Black Community

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GOP opens shop to woo black voters
N.C. Republicans roll out Charlotte engagement office
 
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2013 10:07 am
by Herbert L. White

North Carolina’s Republican Party is taking its brand into black communities that overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Republican National Committee member Dr. Ada Fisher of Salisbury (from left), Earl Philip, N.C. Republican Party African American outreach director and RNC National Field Director for African American Initiatives  Kristal Hartsfield chat at the NCGOP African American Engagement Office in Charlotte on Oct. 21.

The GOP launched its first African American Engagement Office on Oct. 21 at 500 East Morehead St. with a reception of African Americans activists, state and national party officials. The Charlotte office is the first in North Carolina and will be staffed by local Republicans. The national office plans to open sites in Florida, Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.

“We’re in a game of people and we are engaged with people in the African American community. We like to talk to folks and we like to share our knowledge, our history and the truth,” said Earl Philip, the N.C. GOP’s outreach director. “Right now, we’re just focused on engaging communities. We’d love to hit every community across North Carolina, and that’s what we’re going to set out to do.”

Democrats, however, aren’t convinced the engagement offices will make much of a dent among African American who traditionally vote Democratic and carried President Barack Obama to lopsided wins in Mecklenburg County in 2008 and 2012. Last year’s national defeat – 95 percent of blacks voted for Obama – led the GOP to develop the latest in a series of outreach strategies among blacks and Latinos. 

“Haven’t we heard this story before?” asked Kiara Pesante, director of African American Media for the Democratic National Committee’s southern region. “From their ’50 State Strategy’ to their ‘autopsy report’ after their disastrous 2012 presidential campaign, the Republicans have promised time and again to listen to the needs of key constituencies and change their ways.”

The GOP faces an uphill climb with a tarnished national brand. The tea party faction, national debt ceiling drama and federal government shutdown cooled GOP support according to polls. In North Carolina, the overhaul of state election laws, rollbacks in unemployment benefits and repeal of the Racial Justice Act have been targets of criticism by blacks and progressives. 

Dr. Ada Fisher of Salisbury, a member of the Republican National Committee, contends the party’s message of self-reliance, social conservatism and capitalism resonates with African Americans.

 “We’re a very pro-family party,” she said. “We’re a party that believes in business and I personally, as a preacher’s kid, was appalled at the Democratic National Convention when they booed God. That doesn’t happen in the Republican Party. We’ve got our own peccadilloes, but that’s not one of them. We believe in God, family and the American way.”

Said Claude Pope, chairman of the N.C. GOP: “Republicans want to reach out to all Americans and say to them you can stand on your own two feet, you can achieve anything you want to if you want it bad enough, and our job is to get government out of the way for you.”

Fisher, a former candidate for the 12th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Mel Watt, insists the combination of message and activism can be successful in future elections.

“The Republican Party needs to get it together to go tell its story,” she said. “We let everybody else define us rather than us defining ourselves, and I’m not about to let them get away with doing this.”

 

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