POLITICS

GOP Needs Full-Time Minority Outreach, 'Not Just Once In A While,' RNC Chair Says

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 29:  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks during the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican party are scheduled to speak at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 29: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks during the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican party are scheduled to speak at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

Reaching out to Latinos and other minority groups is not a part-time job only to be thought of right before elections, the chairman of the Republican National Committee said.

Instead, the party should be spending much of their resources and time in minority outreach at all times of the year, Reince Preibus told a gathering of Georgia Republicans – much like the Democrats started doing four years ago.

"We need to be a year-round party," Preibus said. "We need to be a party that is engaged full time in black, Hispanic and Asian communities. Not just once in a while, but all the time."

The RNC chair said recent GOP efforts, like sending hundreds of party workers into minority communities, is a good start but needs to continue long after this year’s midterms are over.

That would help Republicans make strong in-roads in fast-growing immigrant community that day by day, year by year, are growing in political strength nationally. The party is currently comprised heavily of white voters.  

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In places like Georgia, where every statewide elected official is Republican, Democrats are hoping an increase in minority voters along with an influx of out-of-state residents will make the state more competitive starting this year. And the stakes couldn't be higher as Republicans make a push to take control of the Senate for the last two years of President Barack Obama's term.

The RNC effort, which includes voter registration drives and numerous community meetings, is one of many launched by Republicans this election cycle. The Republican State Leadership Committee has been working to recruit black, Latino and female GOP candidates for state-level offices. And the billionaire Koch brothers have been helping to fund the Libre Initiative, which looks to make inroads among Hispanic voters through conservative-led outreach efforts such as offering English classes, health checkups and courses to help Spanish-speakers earn high school diplomas.

"We are doing the things that I think, unfortunately, for four years the Democrats have been doing full time across this country," Priebus said.

Priebus' visit to Georgia brought him to Cobb County, a predominantly white suburb north of Atlanta with a fast-growing minority population. The county, which traditionally votes Republican, is about 62 percent white, 25 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2010 Census.

Republicans argue their message of fiscal responsibility and a focus on job creation can resonate with minority voters.

"What we are finding out as we are engaging with minorities is that on some of the fiscal issues, it's almost a no-brainer. People understand that debt is not good, that if America has a sinking boat because of the debt then nobody is going to be able to cross the river to opportunity," said Leo Smith, who oversees the GOP minority outreach effort in Georgia and has been traveling the state over the last year to meet with community groups.

Smith added social issues remain a concern, but Republicans need to talk about them in a different way. For instance, many Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have emphasized criminal justice reform because a disproportionate number of the nation's prisoners are black.

One of the most prominent black Democrats in Georgia, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, said it was important for minorities to be engaged by both parties. However, the broader Republican agenda fails to include them, Abrams said, citing the party's opposition to the minimum wage and the federal health care law.

"The distance between Republican ideology and Republican legislation is a gulf that too many people of color fall into," Abrams said. "And we're not going to believe your dream of achievement if you are going to do nothing to make that dream a reality."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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