Issues Trump Skin Color, Black Voters Tell Republicans

AP, Nov. 8, 2006

Republicans had hoped the midterm election would brand 2006 as the year of the black Republican.

That did not happen.

With high-profile losses in Maryland’s Senate race and in contests for governor in Ohio and Pennsylvania, prospects for Republican gains among black voters turned up short this year and gave scant hope for 2008.

Republican Michael Steele, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, lost to Democrat Rep. Ben Cardin by almost 10 percent.

Ken Blackwell, a conservative darling who would have been Ohio’s first black governor, lost by nearly 24 percent.

And Lynn Swann failed by 21 percent to secure the Pennsylvania governor’s office.

The three black Republicans were touted as a new face for the party, which has been perceived as predominantly white for years. But Republicans have vowed—and continue to vow—to change that.

“History will show, these candidates represent a new breed of Republican leaders,” said Tara Wall of the Republican National Committee. “This is just the beginning.”

Wall insisted that the Republicans’ sweeping defeats throughout the nation Tuesday would not hinder the party’s future efforts to recruit black candidates.

The RNC had scheduled more than 100 outreach events to mobilize black voters, with more anticipated during the 2008 election.

Ron Walters, a former campaign official with Rev. Jesse Jackson and now a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, said Republicans have to identify candidates based on issues, not skin color.

“They have to have positions that are in line with the black community,” he said. “If they can’t attract the black vote, it won’t pay off.”

Exit polls showed 88 percent of blacks supported Democrats, about the same level of support as in the last few elections.

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