12/01/2003 06:50 PM EDT
By PHIL W. PETRIE
Officials for the National Republican Committee said the Republican Party intends to lure black voters by trumpeting what it considers major "accomplishments" beneficial to blacks during the current Bush administration.
Aware of the overwhelming number of blacks who voted for Democrats during the 2000 presidential elections, Pamela Mantis, deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, told BlackAmericaWeb.com that during next year's political races, black voters will be reminded of several education, housing and faith-based initiatives undertaken during the Bush administration. Programs that groom potential black leaders will also play a role in attracting black voters, she said.
Mantis pointed to the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001," a policy issue in which the Republican Party believes it can win because it affects large numbers of black and Hispanic students. With passage of the Act two years ago, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the principal federal law affecting education from kindergarten through high school. The new law is an overhaul of federal efforts to support elementary and secondary education in the United States. It preaches accountability for results; an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research; expanded parental options; and expanded local control and flexibility.
The RNC also will tout The American Dream Down Payment Act, which will make available $200 million annually for first- time home buyers. As a result, more construction jobs will be created, with estimates placed at 2,500 jobs for every 1,000 homes. The bill has passed in the House of Representatives and is expected to pass in the Senate.
Also aboard the GOP political treadmill will be Bush's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The Office was created to lead a "determined attack on need" by strengthening and expanding the role of faith-based and community organizations in addressing the nation's social problems. According to the FBCI Web site, "the initiative envisions a faith-friendly public square where faith-based organizations can compete equally with other groups to provide government or privately-funded services."
Mantis said the FBCI also provides the Republican Party access to ministers and that "meetings with pastors are organized on a regular basis."
Other RNC strategies include utilizing radio to tout the GOP. In addition, the RNC's Team Leader program plans to recruit 300 blacks to either assist local politicians or run for office themselves. The Team Leader program seeks to establish and develop a large network of leaders across the country; a large group of grassroots activists to help grow the GOP, advance Republican ideals, and win elections. Once an individual signs up to become a Team Leader, they help fellow Republicans running for office at the local, state and federal level.
Hempstead, N.Y. Mayor James Garner, who said he has been "a proud Republican for 15 years," is a product of the Team Leader program. Garner last week announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for the congressional seat held by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy. Garner, 58, has been mayor of Long Island's largest village for 15 years.
"We have accomplished a great deal by working together, regardless of political affiliation," Garner said. "Now I'm ready to bring that same type of representation to the residents of central Nassau."
During Reconstruction, all of the blacks who served in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives were Republicans, as was Oscar DePriest, the first black representative elected to the U.S. Congress in the 20th Century.
Within the GOP itself, George W. Lee of Memphis, Tenn., played an important role, being elected as a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1932 (alternate), 1944 (alternate), 1948, and 1956.
Other well-known, latter-day black Republicans have included Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP from 1977 to 1992. Before his NAACP stint, Hooks was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission by President Richard Nixon in 1972.
Recent years have seen more blacks waving the banner of the Republican Party, including two of the most recognizable black faces in politics today: Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, both serving in the Bush Administration.
Despite Powell's and Rice's high-profile positions, blacks overwhelmingly continue to support the Democratic Party. Election 2000 had a record turnout of black voters, with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies stating that blacks voted 9 to 1 for Democratic candidates.
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