Ready for a switch?
The Republican Party wants minorities to make a change
By Theresa Racine
"People should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin – Martin Luther King, Jr." King's credo is how the Republican Party wants to be perceived. It's no secret that the Republican Party in New York State is aggressively reaching out to minorities to join the Grand Ole Party (GOP). Republicans have argued that Democrats take Blacks and Hispanics for granted. Since President Bush's election, the GOP has been pulling out all the stops to create inroads into minority communities. Here in New York City, Republicans have taken responsibility for the highly visible economic changes in urban communities such as Harlem's 125th St. While Democrats still outnumber Republicans in New York a large block of voters share Republican values yet don't identify themselves as members of the GOP. The news of the first Republican convention to be held in New York City may bring these 'closet' Republicans out in the open. It's a good thing for the Republicans as they prepare themselves to show the world the GOP is diverse.
Secretary of State, Randy Daniels is a highly visible and respected Black Republican and considered by most a major political force in the state says, "We are encouraging the Republican National Committee to be very broad in its selection of vendors in support of the Convention. But the convention is a one-week episode [scheduled for August 30 - September 4, 2004]. When you talk about economic opportunity you have to look at the larger economy. You have to look at access to capital…you have to look at the private sector. Two-thirds of the American economy is private sector, the government is only one-third. We have to be able to play at all levels. We have to prepare ourselves to be competitive in what ever we do. We have to establish relationships that are necessary to open the doors of opportunity. If the Republican Party extends its hand to the communities of color, communities of color will be wise to extend their hand in return. The challenge for us is to reach a level of political maturity which suggests we put our interest ahead of the Democratic Party…until we do that as a community we will be locked into one camp that will take us for granted, because we don't have an option."
James H. Harding, Jr., a Democrat serving Governor Pataki, is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the state. Probably the second highest-ranking Black to serve in the current administration, Harding is an example of what the Republican Party is looking for. Without officially changing parties, Harding is a staunch supporter of the Republican Party and its policies. He has helped the governor get into Democratic strong holds once closed to any Republican politician. "It was a good opportunity for people to meet a man who I thought had their concern at heart and is interested in working closely with African Americans in their communities. One of the things that hooked me early on is that the Governor said 'we will do on 125th Street what we did on 42nd Street'. If you look on 125th Street, from Second Avenue to Broadway, economic development is booming. You have all kinds of stores. The Republicans are responsible for the growth in Harlem. We as African Americans need to look at the candidates whether they are Republican or Democrat. We need to access and be able to pick the best candidate that can do the best job. When you look at Governor Pataki's record of accomplishments, he has done an excellent job. In this administration the Governor has appointed some outstanding people, not because they are Black…it's helpful that they are Black, but they are appointed because they are competent people."
Some of the leading minorities working in the current administration are of course, Secretary of State, Randy Daniels; Commissioner of Children and Family Services, John Johnson; Deputy Commissioner of New York State Division of Human Rights, Denise Ellison; and Fred Brown, Chairman of New York State Black Republican Council.
The 2004 Republican Convention is expected to bring some 50,000 Republicans and an estimated $150 million to New York City. Choosing New York for its Grand Ole Party is a win-win situation for Republicans. Republicans have already begun wooing minorities in hopes of boosting President Bush's chances for a second term. While it may be true that the Republicans are responsible for 'rapid economic growth' in urban communities, it is also true that many feel the current economic downturn is in part the fault of a Republican administration bent on war.