GOP Chair Bill Armistead Says Republicans Are Actively Seeking More Diversity

Joey Kennedy, Alabama, March 5, 2013

I had a nice meeting with state GOP Chairman Bill Armistead Monday afternoon. {snip}

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Armistead in February was re-elected as state GOP chairman, though the top elected officeholders in the state, including Gov. Robert Bentley and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, campaigned against him. That says a lot about Armistead’s political savvy and clout. The Republican Executive Committee went against its top elected officials in re-electing Armistead by a good margin.

And Armistead says he put all of that behind him once he was re-elected. Now, he says, he’s reaching out to minorities to expand the diversity of the Alabama Republican Party, which might be even less diverse than the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy.

Armistead is serious, though. “I fully believe in this in my heart,” Armistead says. “We have to demonstrate we’re a party of diversity.”

That’s a mammoth challenge. Republicans are identified with voter suppression efforts through photo voter identification, opposition to early voting and opposition to the Voting Rights Act. Too, Republicans championed Alabama’s harsh immigration law and continue to fight for provisions in it that have been thrown out by federal appeals courts.

Armistead admits the immigration law doesn’t help the party with Hispanics. “It’s hurt us, perception-wide,” he says. “The illegals don’t like it. Some legals don’t like it.”

Still, Armistead says he’s talking to African-Americans and Hispanics every day who are interested in the state GOP.

{snip}

As for drawing more African-Americans to the party, Armistead says: “They’re out there. I’m finding them every day.” He says a Young Republicans chapter was recently started at Alabama State University, and he’s in talks to launch a chapter at Alabama A&M University.

Armistead admits the ASU chapter only has a handful of members, and that the party has a ways to go to attract minorities.

But my sense is that Armistead is completely sincere in this effort—even if it won’t be very successful because this is, after all, the Alabama Republican Party. {snip}

“I don’t have to do this to win in Alabama,” Armistead says. He’s absolutely correct. Republicans don’t need minority votes to win in Alabama, as they’ve shown.

Armistead, though, is convicted: “It’s the right thing to do. We have a substantial black population (in Alabama), so we should have more blacks in the Republican Party.”

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