bring minorities into the fold. But minorities might be wary of him because of his involvement in the ballot controversy in Ohio that helped President George W. Bush win re-election in 2004.
A staunch conservative, Blackwell led the campaign for the 2004 Ohio Constitution Amendment banning state recognition of same sex marriage and civil unions. He is a proponent of gun ownership rights, and has stated that he is against abortion except in order to protect the life of the mother.
“The most important thing about having either as chair is that both would definitely take a hard look into minority outreach. Steele will have minorities and women running on the local level to build the party from the grassroots rather than running some random person in any given state, which is where Republicans have often gone wrong,” says Edward Sanders, a black Republican and outgoing state department political appointee who’s been watching the race closely.
“Blackwell will have broader appeal to all Republicans,” he adds. “Unfortunately, due to what happened in 2004, some people view him suspiciously. But he will prove himself by attracting candidates of all stripes.”
Campaigning against the norm
It is not unusual for either party to pick its national chairman based on a job well done, as Bush did with Duncan in 2007 and when President Barack Obama named Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to head the DNC. But this is a different kind of year for the Republicans.
“There’s a very interesting dynamic where you have an unprecedented debate among the candidates. Instead of it being an insider-type election, where everything’s done behind closed doors, this is the one time where it’s out in the open and the candidates are mounting an actual public campaign to try to win the chairmanship,” says Darling.
“There’s really no head of the Republican Party. Nobody is the presumptive nominee for the next presidential election; there’s a void of leadership. So it’s allowing these candidates to have a wide open race, make their bids, and not have to worry about the final choice being a done deal.” According to Darling, the time is right for the party to elect its first African American chairman, but race shouldn’t be a determining factor.
Pennsylvania-based entrepreneur Renee Amoore, a black Republican running to be the party’s co-chair, agrees. She says that although race won’t be a deciding factor in how the members will vote, “People need to see different faces in the leadership of the Republican Party and they’ll see that with one of us.”