- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

The Bush administration’s racially diverse Cabinet so far has not inspired more black Republican candidates, as the party had hoped it would.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Education Secretary Rod Paige, and Alphonso Jackson, who recently was confirmed to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are prominent black faces around the president’s Cabinet table.

Yet the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) counts only 14 black Republican candidates for Congress.

In both 1994 and 2000, that number was 24, the highest in recent years, said David Bositis, a senior researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

“Most of these candidates are absolutely nowhere,” Mr. Bositis says. “And the black Republican candidates who do well fare better with white [rather than black] voters.”

“Several of the black Republican candidates are not getting out of the primaries, they’re not winning,” says Carl Forti, a spokesman for the NRCC. “This is just the nature of the game.”

In 2002, national Republicans, encouraged by a study that found that younger black voters were more open to the Republican Party, promised a wider appeal in the future.

That study, by the Joint Center, found that 10 percent of those polled identified themselves as Republicans, up from 4 percent in 2000. Additionally, 24 percent said they were politically independent, up from 20 percent in 2000.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) still holds hopes for more black candidates and continues to be confident that their numbers will increase in the future.

“I think this time folks are seeing this administration with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice,” says Chris Garrett, outreach coordinator for the RNC. “These people are very visible and show that African-Americans have opportunities to run for office and serve in high positions in a Republican administration.”

Some in black Republican circles are convinced that the only way to capture this much-talked-about constituency is through tenacity and time.

“It is hard to quantify if the presidential appointments have been influential,” says Alvin Williams, president of Black America’s Political Action Committee.

“I am sure that having a Republican presidency with so many high-profile African-American appointees can give other individuals that extra confidence. But it’s an incremental thing. To approach it any other way is to be influenced by cycles,” he says.

Republicans, although they are engaged in get-out-the-vote activities in some minority areas, have not backed many of the black candidates with money, for various reasons.

“I’m not going to wait on the party, and there are other [black Republican candidates] who are asking me to come in and help,” says Armstrong Williams, a conservative political commentator who has been involved with the Republican Party’s outreach efforts.

“I’m doing my own thing,” he says. “The party will toss money like popcorn at candidates who can win. It’s not a black and white thing, it’s a money thing. I don’t take it personally.”

Black Republicans have always had difficulty winning on a large scale. For every Michael S. Steele, the lieutenant governor of Maryland who in 2002 became the first black elected to statewide office in the state’s history, there are others who finish with single-digit percentages.

Mr. Bositis of the Joint Center says that the lack of black support for Republicans since the 1960s is a major factor behind the political split in America.

The party has failed to win more than 16 percent of the black vote in any national election since 1976.

“At one time, that was an advantage, during the ‘Southern strategy’ years, but now it is a disadvantage,” Mr. Bositis says. “If they could get even 18 percent of that vote, it could potentially make the Republicans a permanent governing body. But it is actually heading the other way. So as far as Republicans getting the black vote: Well, there’s no there there.”

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