Fancy Farm: Republicans Must Be Bolder In Courting Minority Voters, Rand Paul Says

AURORA—Republicans are doing well in states like Kentucky, but need to be bolder in appealing to minorities if they hope to win national elections.

That’s according to Senator Rand Paul, who delivered a message to voters Friday touting his efforts to broaden the GOP base ahead of the annual Fancy Farm picnic.

Speaking at the Marshall-Calloway County Republican dinner in front of a predominately white audience, Paul said the GOP doesn’t have to give up its core message to grow its appeals among minority voters.

“What we are for we should even be more boldly for,” he said. “We are the party of the Constitution, the party of the Bill of Rights, the party of civil rights, and the party of voting rights. It all came out of the Republican Party, but we need to remind people that’s where it came from.”

Paul’s courtship of minority voters has been a turbulent one met with skepticism, if not outright hostility, by some.

In a scathing July 25 editorial, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake warned black voters not to be fooled by Paul’s overtures. She said Paul has consistently opposed policies key to African-American advancement.

“(Paul) doesn’t understand that African-Americans don’t reject Republicans because they have largely ignored black communities for decades or because they don’t have enough offices in communities of color,” she said. “Paul should face the fact that the Republican Party pushes an agenda that slows down—and even flat-out reverses—the progress our community has made.”

Related: WFPL’s coverage of the 2014 Fancy Farm picnic

Others continue to highlight Paul taking issue with a key provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but the senator told the Western Kentucky crowd Democrats are taking black voters for granted.

Republicans have an opening to deliver a message of lower taxes and limited government if they’re willing to engage minorities.

“We don’t have to give up on that message to grow,” Paul said. “But we do have to figure out how to talk to people we haven’t been talking to.”

Among the ideas Paul outlined to the crowd were his efforts to allow certain felons to receive their voting rights back and Economic Freedom Zones in impoverished areas.

Republican O.J. Oleka, who is African-American, attended the dinner. He said Paul’s message to white voters in rural Kentucky is consistent with the one he has delivered to blacks in urban communities over the past year.

“People have a right to be skeptical of what a leader says and you have to follow to see what they’re doing now,” said Oleka. “People make comments and may not use the best language, but you have to look at their word and deed, and right now Senator Paul’s word and deeds is favorable to what black voters need.”

“I hope to see more Republicans take his lead.”

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