CLEVELAND — Republican National Conventions are routinely mostly white. This year’s, however, was remarkably so, say black Republicans, some of whom complained to the media and their party.
This year’s convention was most notable for the prominent black Republicans who weren’t here: former Secretary of States Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Utah Congresswoman Mia Love, former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, former Education Secretary Rod Paige, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs Alphonso Jackson and a long list of black state and municipal office holders.
Many were turned off by Trump and statements he has made about Mexicans, Muslims and other that even members of his party called racist.
Love told one newspaper she didn’t come because she didn’t see a benefit to her state. Powell told the New York Times he wasn’t even watching the convention on television.
One bit of news that has caused the convention some embarrassment is the lack of black delegates to the convention.
Telly Lovelace, the Republican Party’s national director for African-American Initiatives and Media, sent an email to reporters outlining the diversity of delegates at the party’s convention. Of the 2,472 delegates on hand for the convention, only 18, or less than 1 percent, were black.
In 2004, by comparison, the number of black delegates at the convention was 7 percent, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington public policy organization that produces research on black electoral politics.
In an interview here at the convention, Lovelace said that unofficially those numbers have changed, but he didn’t have any new figures.
“We’ll be releasing the official numbers soon,” said Lovelace, who noted that he is the only African-American at the RNC headquarters.
Despite poll figures showing that black voters are turned off by Trump and the absence of so many prominent black Republicans, Lovelace said the party’s black engagement is better than it was in 2014.
“We need to build a relationship with the [black] community,” he said, which he was hired to do.
Lovelace was previously the managing director of IR Media LLC, a black-owned, Washington-based communications firm founded by Jarvis Stewart, who was chief of staff to former Rep. Harold Ford Jr.
His job is to make the Republican Party seem like a viable option to African-American voters. His hiring followed an exodus of black staffers in the party’s the African-American outreach of black where the entire black outreach staff at the RNC left their positions between October and April.
Lovelace said the well-publicized friction between the Republican Party and the Trump campaign is improving.
“We’re beginning to have that merge between the RNC and the Trump campaign,” said Lovelace who said he is the only African-American staffer at the RNC headquarters.
The RNC will continue to hire black staffers, implement a program that will allow the RNC and state Republican chapters to engage with historically black colleges and universities and will reach out to the black community using a wide range of media on issues important to them, he said.
“We’re taking a step in the right direction,” he said.