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Democrats Boost Minority Outreach

House Democrats are in the process of forming two new organizations bringing together minority Members and their colleagues who represent districts with sizable black or Hispanic populations.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is spearheading the creation of the African-American and Hispanic work groups, devoted specifically to improving Members’ relationships with key minority groups.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the idea is timely and perhaps the “most significant thing that [Pelosi] has done to strengthen our party.”

“She has asked the CBC to work with her in strengthening that relationship between all of our Members and the African-American community,” he said. “I think it sends a very strong message to African-American people that the Democratic Party is not taking them for granted.”

The African-American work group should be up and running shortly after the Memorial Day recess, while the Hispanic group is still in its infancy. Both groups will have a similar mission.

The new groups will focus on improving the Democrats’ communication and outreach to minority districts on key issues affecting blacks and Hispanics. They will also focus on helping Members who aren’t minorities better communicate with their constituents. The CBC and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, both ethnically driven coalitions, consist only of minority Members.

Pelosi characterized the two new groups as “additional components of our overall commitment to listen and speak to the diverse constituencies Democrats represent.”

“These work groups will focus on developing the most effective messages and initiatives for Democrats to communicate what we stand for, what we are fighting for and how we differ from Republicans,” Pelosi added.

The African-American work group, to be led by Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.), will consist of about 50 Members, both black and non-black.

Clyburn said the goal is to put the group in place and begin working shortly after the Memorial Day recess. He said the idea for the organization is not entirely new, but one that was never able to get off the ground before among House Democrats.

“We just need to formalize what’s been a loose structure for a long time,” he said.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), a leader of the CBC, said the group would allow black Members to assist their colleagues on key minority issues and with outreach to voters in their districts.

“We recognize and understand that the CBC has an interest and great potential to help in districts that aren’t necessarily majority black, but have large minority populations,” Davis said. “It makes a lot of good sense.”

Davis said the focus is to increase attention on Members’ minority constituents and ensure their concerns are not ignored.

“In some places, the candidate has no relationship” with minorities, he said. “They are coming in cold.”

Cummings noted that in 2002 black Members played a key role in ensuring the victory of Rep. Rodney Alexander and re-election of Sen. Mary Landrieu, both Louisiana Democrats.

“Pelosi wants to make sure long before election time that those relationships are cultivated,” Cummings said.

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