- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Former Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma plans to use his new post as chairman of GOPAC to preserve and extend the Republicans' governing majority by reaching into communities for voters that traditionally back Democrats blacks, Hispanics and others.
"My goal is to broaden the reach of my party," Mr. Watts said in an interview last night.
"Too many Americans live by Republican principles of faith, family, hope and opportunity, but vote for Democrats out of sheer habit," said Mr. Watts, who retired from Congress last year after rising to the No. 4 position in the House leadership.
"GOPAC will take the lead in reaching into America's diverse communities. We can't grow our Republican majority without minorities and working men and women," Mr. Watts said before giving his speech last night at the annual Chairman's Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the District.
The speech emphasized that the mission of GOPAC, the quarter-century-old Republican organization made famous by presidential candidate Pete duPont and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is nothing less than to save the party of Lincoln from electoral extinction.
The new mission under Mr. Watts would reinforce the goals set out by President Bush and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove.
Republican electoral analysts from Mr. Rove on down look at America's changing demographics and see their party soon slipping into permanent minority status unless it attracts a larger share of the black and Hispanic vote.
Mr. Watts, the Republican Party's only black elected congressman until he decided not to seek a fifth term last year, replaced former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating as GOPAC chairman last month.
In his maiden speech as GOPAC's new chairman, Mr. Watts also said the organization would not desert its founding purpose.
GOPAC's mission, first under Mr. duPont in the 1970s and '80s and then under Mr. Gingrich until his resignation after the 1998 midterm elections, was to raise a "farm team" of Republican legislators at all levels who could come to Washington to take over the House and Senate.
By the time Mr. Gingrich left, Republicans had won control of Congress, and GOPAC under several succeeding chairmen lost some of its luster as it searched for a new role. GOPAC relies on contributions from major donors, who have been drifting away in recent years.
Mr. Watts said it will continue to pay attention to building a farm team, but that it will be the job of new Deputy Chairman Robb M. LaKritz to find those donors and persuade them to contribute.
Mr. LaKritz served in the Bush administration as Treasury Department senior adviser, directing the government's efforts to shut down terrorists' financing sources.
He also served as executive director of American Dreamers, a program that rallied ethnic and minority entrepreneurs and activists to the Bush campaign.
Andrew McLemore Jr., executive vice president of a Detroit construction founded by his father, said he was attending GOPAC meetings for the first time yesterday.
He said he decided to become a financial contributor because he heard Mr. Watts was the new chairman and that the "Republican Party would do a better job of helping taking the message of entrepreneurial initiative and freedom to minority communities."

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