NAACP “looking hard” at the Republican Party

Source: Washington Times
NAACP delegates and members said they are “looking hard” at the Republican Party and its slate of black candidates this year, but most are not ready to embrace the party’s politicians or its policies.
“We are trying to bridge this gap between Republicans and the NAACP — who knows what the future may bring — but right now we just don’t want to break a good thing with people who we know will vote in favor of our issues,” said Yvonne M. White, NAACP state conference president of Michigan.
Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which gathered in Washington this week for its 97th annual convention, cited concern over President Bush’s recent judicial nominations and Republicans’ anti-affirmative-action efforts as reasons not to switch from their traditional backing of Democrats.
“There has to be a commitment to say that you will support the issues important to me — affirmative action, minimum wage increase, health care for all — and that is the greatest concern for us,” said Aonie Gilcreast, political action chairman for the Flint, Mich., NAACP branch.
Black Republicans are running for statewide office in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, where Keith Butler is challenging Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat.
Mr. Gilcreast admitted that he was considering Mr. Butler, something unthinkable a few years ago.
“Reverend Keith Butler has met with some of the branches, and he has a black church,” but he has to clarify what he means when he calls for “‘affirmative access’ over affirmative action,” said Mr. Gilcreast.
Several NAACP members did praise Republican efforts to end the so-called death tax and expand business and home ownership opportunities in the black community, as well as the ongoing outreach efforts by Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.
Jenkins Odoms, NAACP state conference president for Maryland, expressed hope for Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican running for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.
“He has been effective in working with minority contractors and black businesses getting them contracts and the money they need,” Mr. Odoms said.
Mr. Odoms said Mr. Steele has been held back from speaking out on black issues by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and that he isn’t sure a black Republican in the Senate would hold much sway.
“And that is what concerns me about him reaching the Senate, because when I ask if he will be able to be a Republican and vote for civil-rights-minded judges, I have to say no,” he said.
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