It's not easy for this Washington Redskins diehard to pop into Dallas Cowboys territory, but in search of an oft-overlooked perspective on the presidential race, I spoke Wednesday morning with Texas State Rep. Stefani Carter, a Cowboys fan.
Like President Obama, Ms. Carter is a Harvard grad and a lawyer and is of African-American ancestry.
There are stark differences, too, the least of which is gender.
The daughter of a school teacher and small businessman, Ms. Carter is a Republican and a member of the Romney campaign's Black Leadership Council. In this position, she helps massage and espouse the candidate's messages on major domestic themes that touch our lives — chief among them the economy, unemployment and immigration — and also hot-button issues like welfare and abortion.
Hers is a fresh look at a Republican Party that too often is regarded as clubby group of rich white guys.
Q: Let's talk first about black unemployment and immigration. The national rate is about 14 percent and in some political wards in Washington, D.C. it's twice that or higher. Are we fighting a stereotype that blacks don't want the jobs that immigrants and illegal aliens will do, or have race-and-ethnic-based politics created another front on the battle of class war?
A: Well, I believe that any American wants a job offered to him or her regardless of race or class. My father owns a lawn-care company and one of the guys [he hired] commented to him that he had been looking for a job for a long time, a blue-collar job, and [my father] was the first to offer one because they usually go to illegal immigrants. African-Americans should be asking themselves if they can't get a job, why should they re-elect the president? ... Gov. Romney has the policies to lower black unemployment.
Q: President Obama took on Mr. Romney's 47 percent comments regarding "personal responsibility" during the debate and said that he too supports "self-reliance" and "individual initiative." But Mr. Obama also said "everybody should play by the same rules." Are illegal immigrants "playing by the same rules"?
A: Absolutely not. Gov. Romney made it very clear he cares about 100 percent of Americans. He believes that legal immigrants are playing by same rules and that's healthy for our economy. ... But Gov. Romney opposes amnesty. If this election is about the economy, then it [illegal immigration] has truly devastated the Hispanic community ... with 2.5 million unemployed today ... a third are between 16 and 19 ... and 2 million more Hispanics are living in poverty compared to four years ago.
Q: Are you a fiscal hawk, a dove or somewhere in between?
A: I am strongly fiscally conservative.
Q: You have said, "America has always represented limitless opportunity, not a guaranteed outcome." What's the moral imperative regarding such entitlements as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and food stamps?
A: Let me answer this way. We have a moral duty in this election to commit to create more jobs. [In the debate] Gov. Romney pointed out the decline in personal income and laid out his plan to help the middle class.
When I campaign and talk with folks I simply ask one question: Are you better off today than two years ago, [since I was elected], or four years [since President Obama was elected]? Maybe the government is not the answer. ... We need someone who will help.
Ms. Carter, to be clearer, said that government help means weaning some adults off generational welfare and replacing it with jobs and careers that lead to self-reliance.
She also said she often uses her dad's landscaping business as a measuring stick for the economy. That is to say when the local, state and U.S. are economies are not healthy, "people plant their own gardens."
Q: What about government-funded abortions on demand?
A: I think that Gov. Romney made clear that he wants to have access to health care. ... Government's duty is not to fund abortion.
Here again, hers is a picture of a different sort than those within the ranks of the Republican Party, eh?
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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