Elections Story

Published on December 19th, 2014


Republican Diversity: Blacks Need Not Apply


Unlike the Republican National Committee (RNC), our national party apparatus, most of the 50 state party committees are stuck in the 1960s when it comes to the Black community. Exhibit A for this was the annual weekend gathering for the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) that took place two weeks ago in Dulles, Va., about 25 miles outside of Washington, D.C. This is a gathering where all the powers that be from across the state gather to plot future strategies that will move the state party forward.

I used to be intimately involved in these annual gatherings, but over the years found them to be increasingly a waste of time. The state party would always invite me to participate or moderate a panel on “minority outreach.” The panels always turned out to be more talk than action. In the 90s, I was elected statewide to be national committeeman of the Young Republicans Federation of Virginia, the first and only Black to ever win this office. In that position, I traveled the state talking to anyone who would listen about the imperative of getting more Blacks involved in our state party. Suffice it to say that Virginia’s moniker of being the “cradle of the confederacy” is well deserved.

Despite the lack of interest by the Republic Party of Virginia in the Black community, Virginia has a long history of statewide elected officials who talked, lived, and breathed real diversity. We had governors such as Jim Gilmore, George Allen, Lt. Gov. John Hager, and Attorney General Mark Earley. They not only earned north of 25 percen7 the Black vote, they had paid Black campaign staffers; and had prominent Blacks throughout their administrations. These Blacks were placed in decision-making positions and were not just window dressing.

The state party never institutionalized what these office holders put in place, so since these guys left office in the early 2000s; we are always starting from ground zero with the Black vote, as opposed to building on what was previously done.

So, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the comments being reported by the media about our gathering two weeks ago.

According to the Washington Post, “Virginia Republicans are launching a major new strategy to start winning statewide elections again with a concerted effort to engage minority voters and unify the fractured establishment and conservative wings of the party.

Energized by Ed Gillespie’s near-win against U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) last month, activists and party leaders gathered at their annual retreat this weekend in Northern Virginia to plot ways to raise money and build broad new field operations.

As one of the speakers at the gala dinner, Gillespie urged the party to build on gains his campaign made with African American, Hispanic and Asian American voters over the next four years.”

The only problem is there was absolutely no substantive engagement with the Black community during this year’s elections in Virginia. I consider Gillespie a friend, but I am totally unaware of any professional political operatives who worked on his campaign staff or served as a consultant. If you want to know where a person’s commitments are, have them open their checkbook and see where they spend their money.

The Washington Post continues, “State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who came within a hair’s breadth of winning the attorney general’s race last year…urged the party to embrace new constituencies, offering a plug for Filipino American Friendship Day, the Pakistani American Business Association and the Korean U.S. Festival, where he sampled various “exotic food items…We have economic diversity, geographic diversity, but particularly in Northern Virginia, we have incredible ethnic diversity.”

Notice there was no mention of the Black vote? According to updated (2013) U.S. Census data: Blacks are 19.7 percent of the population in Virginia (Hispanic s are 8.6 per cent, and Asians are 6.1 so where do you have the best potential for a return on every dollar spent? Duh, it’s the Black vote.

According to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce, Blacks own 9.9 percent of all the businesses in Virginia (Asian 7 percent, Hispanic 4.5 percent). Again, the Black community provides the best possible return on investment.

Mark Obenshain, how many Blacks do you have on your current senate staff? How many Blacks did you have on your campaign staff last year? The Obenshain name in Virginia politics is like the Kennedy name in Massachusetts. He has been around politics his entire life, so his ignoring the Black vote is harder to accept. The irony of all the money that was that all the major speakers were White. There was not one Black speaker at an event where the party was talking about wanting to engage more with the Black community. As the old folks used to say, “their actions speak so loud I can’t hear a thing they are saying.” 


About the Author: Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @raynard1223. 

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2 Responses to Republican Diversity: Blacks Need Not Apply

  1. MacG says:

    ” In that position, I traveled the state talking to anyone who would listen about the imperative of getting more Blacks involved in our state party.”

    Perhaps I am daft and missed this this in the article but when you were the president who did you talk to – White politicians or Black voters?

  2. Manhattan says:

    Mr. Jackson, you’re in company with us moderate and liberals who weren’t included either in outreach for the Republican Party today.

    The party used to have a liberal wing until the 60’s and then it lost relevance over time. Now it barely exists with people like Susan Collins and Mark Kirk.

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