Steele considers himself to be far more anchored in than the grassroots than Washington politics and contends that his most important mission takes place in the nation’s communities where he’s working to attract both voters and viable candidates for various levels of elective office.
Steele said the RNC has “taken some affirmative steps that are a little bit different to engage [minorities] in a conversation,” about the GOP, such as town hall meetings in communities such as Chicago’s South Side and at black institutions including Howard University.
However, Colorado Republican Ryan Frazier, who’s making a bid to become the state’s first black member of Congress, believes the party has a long way to go to convince blacks that there’s room for them under the GOP tent.
“There’s so much that the GOP still needs to do to make its case to blacks as to why it presents a good mechanism to express their voices, views and opinions,” said Frazier. “The Republican Party as I see it is one that’s about freedom and opportunity and that is the ability for people to make their own decisions about what’s best for them and their families. We need to make a stronger case.”
The months leading up to the midterm elections will be a critical test of just how successfully Steele’s message is resonating in minority communities. According to a list provided by the RNC, a preliminary roster of candidates vying for national, state and local office this year is much more diverse, with approximately 22 African American, 16 Hispanic, and 10 Asian American candidates.
Some of the black candidates, such as Frazier, who’s been endorsed by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, may actually win. According to the Republican operative, that endorsement is indicative of Frazier’s chances because “the Republican establishment doesn’t come out unless there’s a good shot.” In addition, he said that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) have thrown their support behind Michael Williams, who heads the Railroad Commission of Texas and already has been elected statewide a few times.
The operative also believes that Les Phillip, who’s making a congressional bid to represent Alabama’s 5th district, is also looking like a strong contender.
“The Tea Party people really like him and he’s shown that he’s very concerned about fiscal issues and is very socially conservative. He’s also been out there for a long time raising support,” he said, adding that these and other minority candidates should fare well with white voters in their primaries because those voters are more concerned with ideology than race.
Several black candidates attended the American Conservative Union’s CPAC February conference in Washington, DC, which featured more black speakers than in years past. It was a great opportunity for them to “introduce themselves to the conservative body politic,” explained Brandon Andrews, a black Republican and Capitol Hill staffer. Such events provide candidates with opportunities to try out their message on a national stage, meet with GOP leadership and develop a following from which they can solicit donations and future campaign volunteers, he added.
The operative predicts that black voters will also be more receptive to black Republican candidates because “there’s a willingness among these candidates to do the work in the African American and other communities that hasn’t been done before because they’re part of these communities.”
“There are folks willing to give you the benefit of their time and perhaps their support if you engage them with more than just words; it’s about action. The engagement is what will help attract more people and ultimately more minority candidates to the Republican Party,” he said. “All GOPers have an obligation to take our message and ideals to the people. The key issues for them are jobs and economy, education, and fiscal responsibility and I’ve found regardless of background or race, when you speak to those issues, it resonates.”