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GOP Ramps Up Minority Outreach

Several dozen House GOP district staffers will gather in Washington later this month to strategize about how to improve their outreach efforts in minority communities.

The event, which will take place Oct. 28-29, will be hosted by the Republican Conference and was the brainchild of Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) and Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), whom Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has tasked with improving the party’s ties with minority groups.

At Hastert’s behest, nearly every House GOP lawmaker has designated one district staffer apiece to spearhead outreach efforts. The Conference estimates that 80 to 100 of those aides will be on hand for the event.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Deana Bass, the Conference’s outreach coordinator. “There has to be a link between what we’re doing in D.C. and what they’re doing in the district.”

The event will include panels on coalition-building and working with minority media and breakout sessions on topics such as legislation that benefits minorities.

The event and other initiatives pushed by Weller and Pryce are reflective of the national GOP’s efforts to improve the party’s standing in minority communities.

Toward that end, Weller has urged lawmakers to set up minority advisory committees on local issues and to make an extra effort to visit Hispanic chambers of commerce, black churches and other venues that will allow them some personal interaction with key leaders in their districts.

The Illinois lawmaker has also taken the lead in offering Spanish classes to lawmakers and setting up a minority job bank.

“Some Members who do well [at getting re-elected] may not see the need for this kind of outreach, but it has an important impact on statewide races,” said Weller spokesman Ben Fallon.

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