Black GOP Candidates Accuse Party of Ignoring Them
Three long-shot African-American Republican House candidates are fuming at national party leaders for not doing enough to help get them elected.
Campaign managers for Chuck Smith in Virginia, Charlotte Bergmann in Tennessee and Marvin Scott in Indiana all said the support they’ve received from GOP leaders this cycle has been dismal. They added that there could be consequences for the party if they are elected to Congress next year.
Smith’s campaign manager, Lisa Creeden, said she wishes her boss could count on the party’s help; no Republican has held Virginia’s 3rd district in 18 years.
“I think the Republican Party is going to damage themselves with the African-American community,” Creeden said. “I understand part of it is they are focused on races they can win easily, but our point is we couldn’t necessarily win this easily, but we can still win it. The effort to reach out to the African-American community will pay out in future elections.
“If they drop the ball now, they will have to start all over again,” she added.
Smith is running against nine-term Rep. Bobby Scott (D). Scott won the 2008 election with 97 percent of the vote.
Still, Creeden said she believes that this year is different for a Republican.
“We’re looking at pastors who have stepped away from the Democratic Party machine to say we can’t support this man anymore and we want the Republican,” Creeden said.
She added that the GOP has created challenges for Smith, including pulling the campaign’s access to a voter vault earlier this year.
“We have repeatedly asked them for support,” Creeden said. “It would have been nice if we could have counted on the Republican Party to deliver the voters.”
Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell headlined a breakfast fundraiser for Smith earlier this month, and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele held an event for Smith. A campaign spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not respond to a request for comment.
Garren Shipley, spokesman for the Virginia Republican Party, said the state party has helped Smith by providing media relations counsel, technical assistance and access to the state party’s offices.
“We really don’t understand what would make folks in the Smith campaign say that,” Shipley said. “We’ve done everything we can to help them.”
Jerry Alexander, campaign manager for Marvin Scott, who is challenging Rep. Andre Carson (D), said the Scott campaign has received virtually no help from state or national GOP leaders.
“If you call getting no support, not even a phone call, not even a how are you doing kind of support, then I would have to say that is a pretty accurate assessment,” Alexander said.
Alexander said that he has talked with the other 14 African-American Republican candidates’ campaigns, and each has similar complaints.
“It’s been a bunch of guys grumbling that they are getting no support,” Alexander said of a slew of e-mails that were sent back and forth this week.
Alexander, who served as Rep. Mike Pence’s political director for nearly seven years, said his former boss is the only Republican who has helped the Scott operation. Pence, who represents Indiana’s 6th district, is the GOP Conference chairman, the No. 3 Republican leader.
“Our campaign didn’t even know there was a Boehner. Now what’s his job?” Alexander jokingly asked of the House Minority Leader, who is in line to become the next Speaker.
In particular, the Scott campaign is miffed that Steele traveled last week with his bus tour to Rep. Dan Burton’s nearby 5th district but didn’t stop at Scott’s district, about 3 miles away.
“It doesn’t take a lot of money, it just takes people saying we are in this, and the reality is I think Dr. Scott can win in spite of the challenges that we’re experiencing,” Alexander said.
Scott faces an uphill battle to beat Carson, who won the seat in 2008 following the death of his grandmother, Julia Carson, who represented the district for 10 years. The younger Carson won with 65 percent of the vote two years ago.
RNC spokesman Doug Heye pushed back against criticism that the GOP has not done enough for minority candidates this cycle. Heye said the bus tour has traveled to at least nine African-American candidates’ districts.
“We’ve been on this Fire Pelosi bus tour that has gone to all 48 states,” Heye said. “It doesn’t mean that we’ve been able to go to all 435 Congressional districts.”
The RNC has also featured African-American candidates on its blogs and in e-mails, Heye said.
But Bergmann’s political director, Howie Morgan, isn’t sold, and he said the lack of interest in African-American candidates’ races could cause problems for the leadership down the road.
Bergmann’s campaign had hoped Boehner would stop by its district when he was traveling in Tennessee on Thursday. Boehner’s advance staff said Boehner’s schedule didn’t allow for it, according to Morgan.
“I think anybody would imagine if someone was to drive by your house and would like your support for something in two months, you might want to come by and say hello,” Morgan said, alluding to the upcoming House leadership elections.
“I’m sure Charlotte will be looking at everyone,” Morgan said. “We need new leadership.”
Boehner has been financially supportive of several African-American candidates this cycle, including Allen West, Ryan Frazier and Tim Scott. He has also done at least one campaign visit for West, who is trying to unseat two-term Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.).
Still, that isn’t enough for Morgan.
“I was surprised they couldn’t spend 15 minutes when they are literally driving by my office,” Morgan said.