Louisville Republicans have a new ad campaign aimed at winning over African-American voters.
The GOP is running a half-page ad in the Louisville Defender that says the party of Abraham Lincoln is listening.
This follows the lead of U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has made a noticeable effort to court minorities as he gears up for a presidential bid.
In an interview with WFPL, Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Nathan Haney says the newspaper ad is the just the first of many targeting black voters.
“(It’s) not necessarily we haven’t been open, but that we thought we knew what would be best for that community,” he says. “And I think that’s it is proven that maybe we don’t know best for those communities. We want to build trust in those communities because we believe our narrative is a good one.”
The Louisville GOP plans to release similar ads to other African-American media outlets, including hip-hop and gospel radio stations.
It’s an important push for the GOP nationally given the country’s changing demographics.
The white vote has been shrinking in presidential elections over the past 30 years, and just one out of 10 Americans who backed Republicans were non-white voters in 2012. That’s compared to Democrats who have 44 percent of their voters represented by racial minorities.
Paul appears to be making strides locally and nationally, being embraced by leaders such as the Rev. Kevin Cosby of Louisville while receiving an invitation to address the NAACP this year.
Besides surface appearances, the libertarian-leaning senator has also made policy overtures including changing federal sentencing guidelines and supporting restoration of felon voting rights in the state legislature.
Paul recently had a “Sista Souljah moment” of sorts, when he denounced musician and conservative firebrand Ted Nugent for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
Louisville attorney Junis Baldon says African-Americans such as himself are taking a sincere notice of these efforts. But he says black voters remain skeptical about Paul and the Louisville GOP’s true motives.
“The perception is that while Rand Paul is out here making efforts to speak to African-Americans, you have to really think if he really means what he says when he goes out and he talks to someone like Donald Trump for instance,” he says.
Just as Paul was being credited with denouncing Nugent, he touted a golf outing with Trump, who was a leading voice questioning the president’s citizenship.
And while Paul has lauded Cosby for leading a resurrection of Simmons College of Kentucky, critics says it wasn’t long ago when he called for the elimination of the Department of Education, which helps fund many of those historically black institutions.
“I would like to think that Rand Paul, what he is doing, is really trying to make sure the GOP is relevant,” says Baldon.
“I think African-Americans are better off with a true alternative. If you look at cities over the past 50 years that have had one party rule there’s a lot for African-Americans to be disappointed with the Democratic Party. But with no real alternative to go to or a party that doesn’t seem receptive or appears tone deaf, African-Americans are simply stuck.”
That is a big part of what Haney’s pitch to black voters is about, and what they want to strike at with this new ad campaign.
The Democrats control the Metro Council, mayor and county attorney’s office in the city, as well as the Third Congressional District seat.
The GOP understand to remain competitive they have to crack that with a message to black constituencies centering on employment opportunities, education gaps and housing. As a start, Louisville Republicans have scheduled their monthly June in west Louisville.
“My question back to the Democrats is what have their policies over the last 53 years in Louisville with control of pretty much every single office, what have their policies done?,” he says.
“Let’s talk about housing. Almost every house in west Louisville is boarded up. There’s one on every block. So what exactly is it that Democrats are talking about? It’s worth our time to talk to these communities.”