Friday, July 1, 2016

BlakPAC GOTV IN Action

Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy of Creative Loafing 
As the election year intensifies, conservative political action committee BlakPAC is urging black candidates and voters to get more involved in the political process — and give conservative candidates another look.

During the group’s Juneteenth celebration earlier this week, attendees heard from minority candidates (and a few caucasian ones) running for office throughout the state as well as community leaders, all Republicans.

“We have to begin to have people who represent constituencies,” said Sheila Scott-Griffin, chairman of the Pinellas Suncoast Black Republican Club, who ran for St. Petersburg City Council in 2015. “If you don't have people out of communities, you don't have people who understand...It’s not good enough to keep jumping into races and come out with 3 to 10 percent [of the vote]. We need to take you over the margin and make sure you’re going to win. BlakPAC is committed to that.”

Some candidates explained why they’re running despite hardships they face.
“No one in my immediate family has ever run for public office,” said Tallie Gainer III, who is running for Leon County School Board's District 4 seat. “For me to go to a black family who may be a part of my constituency or a white family who's in transition, and ask for a donation when I know they need diapers, that's conflicting for me. Those with the affluence have more disposable income.”

Other candidates emphasized that minority communities need alternatives to current elected officials, new leaders who in their view will do what’s best for the community at large.

“We need elected leaders, not politicians, who have the humility to see that the job gets done in the best interest of our communities and not in the best interest of what lays ahead for their next campaign,” said Tim Schock, who is running for Hillsborough County Commission, District 6 in a Republican primary against Jim Norman.

Other candidates that attended and spoke at BlakPAC's event include Christine Quinn, Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a popular Tampa Democrat who comfortably holds her Congressional District 14 seat; Dwight Young, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in a primary that includes incumbent Marco Rubio and self-funded newcomer Carlos Beruff; and, Todd Jones for property appraiser.

With November being right around the corner, election season — both locally and nationally — is heating up as candidates seek support and funding to ultimately win.
However, BlakPAC chairman George Farrell says presidential candidates have to learn from what happened with 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his inability to secure the minority vote.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, of course, does very poorly among minorities — much more so than Romney. On Wednesday, a Quinnipiac University poll showed that Trump has support from one percent of black voters. That, obviously, could be problematic for black conservatives who are trying to convince minority communities to vote the conservative ticket.

Florida's African-American voters are overwhelmingly registered as Democrats, but there are only 60,000 black Republicans. Farrell said 2016 is the year to win hearts and minds of millions of people who typically don't vote Republican, partly by reflecting diversity among the candidates themselves.
“When I look at a campaign, I look to see if they have blacks on their staff,” Farrell said. “If I don't see a lot of diversity in the campaign—Republican or Democrat—I will talk to the candidate and say, 'Look, I think you need a little bit more diversity.' I think if Donald Trump actually brings more diversity at the top of his campaign, he could probably hit 20 to 25 percent [of the black vote].
Meanwhile, Trump's campaign staff is mostly caucasian.

“If he doesn't hire black leaders to his campaign now, it's not going to happen after the presidency,” Farrell said.

On the other hand, that means more people of color and minority communities have to get involved in politics and voting to truly have influence over elections, Gainer said.

“I know many black candidates or black individuals that have beautiful and powerful views on how we can make this world a better place,” Gainer said. “Unless we get involved in the political process, these views are oftentimes unheard.”

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