Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Cultivating Black Candidates Tactic Could Win White Votes, Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Cultivating Black Candidates Tactic Could Win White Votes, Too

Article excerpt

BAYSHORE, N.Y. -- Republicans are funneling money to three African-American candidates for the House of Representatives, pushing to have them speak at the upcoming GOP convention and are considering hiring a staffer to head minority outreach at the House campaign committee.

In contrast to previous elections, when Republicans virtually wrote off African-American voters, House Republicans are making an assiduous effort to reach out to blacks and other minorities. House leaders have promoted both symbolic and substantive legislation targeting black communities this session.

Republicans acknowledge these efforts are unlikely to yield many short-term benefits, though they could influence the outcome of a few close races. More important, however, they represent a broader effort by the GOP to reposition itself as more moderate after years of a more conservative tilt.

Among the three Republican African-Americans seeking a House seat is Islip Supervisor Joan Johnson, who Suffolk County Republicans picked to succeed retiring Rep. Rick Lazio, R-N.Y. The others are Jennifer Carroll, who's challenging Rep. Corrine Brown, and Dylan Glenn, who's taking on Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. Brown's district includes parts of Jacksonville.

Johnson said she thought House leaders would be furious at Suffolk County Republicans.

"'This is a seat you want to hold, and you've nominated a 66-year-old black woman?' " Johnson said she assumed they would ask. " 'Are you crazy?' "

But national Republicans have quickly coalesced around Johnson and predict she will keep Democrats from winning the seat Lazio gave up to run for the Senate. Though her nomination was strictly a local decision, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who chairs the House GOP's campaign arm, said Johnson's moderate outlook and local popularity will win her crossover voters. "She's a power in her own right," Davis said.

While Johnson was not the party's first choice -- she emerged as the leading candidate after another Islip town supervisor decided not to run -- she stands a reasonable chance of becoming the first African American Republican woman elected to Congress. …

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