In the last couple of months, the Republican National Committee has lost a number of Black staffers in what many are calling a massive exit.
Last week, the National Director of African-American Outreach who was responsible for strategy around the African-American vote, Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield, left. She was also the highest ranking African-American at the RNC.
Hartsfield was one of two big departures the Republican National Committee has encountered in just the past few weeks. A month earlier, Orlando Watson, the RNC’s Communications Director of Black Media left, prior to that Journalist, Filmmaker and Media Strategist, Tara Wall. Former RNC deputy press secretary Raffi Williams took flight as well.
Earlier this week, veteran GOP communications strategist Telly Lovelace assumed the role of New Director of Black Initiatives and Media. Chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, was quoted as saying, “Telly is a welcome addition to our team, and I’m confident his experience will help us build on our commitment to cultivate relationships and trust with Black Media and Black communities.”
Will the recent hiring of Lovelace bring more African-Americans into the GOP, keep more Black staffers from leaving, or be a milestone in the mass exodus of minority staffers at the RNC?
On Thursday’s edition of NewsOne Now, Republican strategist Raynard Jackson spoke with Roland Martin about the rash of departures at the RNC.
Jackson told Martin the individuals mentioned were “fired and it should have happened last year.”
“They were in over their head, they had no message for the Black community, they had no relationship with our Congressional leadership,” said Jackson. He continued, “You can’t go into the Black community saying you’re trying to outreach and not walk into the Black community with legislative proposals to deal with issues they care about.”
Martin responded to Jackson’s statement, explaining at one time there were twelve outreach offices that were open in 2015. In 2016, the RNC has reduced that number down to two.
Martin said, “One of the things that I’ve heard is that you also have to have the financial commitment from party leaders — and so you can be African-American, you can be tasked with these various initiatives, but if you don’t have a budget, if you don’t have those resources to be able to go out and create that support, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
NewsOne Now panelist Randa Fahmy, former Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy, asserted, “There is a procedural issue here.”
“I think that the staffers who left were right on target,” Fahmy said and then proceeded to explain why. “When the Republican Party has a nominee, they clean house at the RNC. Reince Priebus is going to be gone.”
She added, “It is the right of the Republican nominee to come in, put his own person in as head of the RNC, and his own staffers.”
David Swerdlick, Assistant Editor at the Washington Post, explained he did not want to contradict Jackson’s reporting of the events inside the walls of the RNC, but said his information pointed to possibly different reasons.
Swerdlick said several of the individuals involved and other prominent Black Republicans “have a slightly different version” of the departures.
He offered a possible scenario that may have prompted the exodus of Black staffers saying, “If they don’t have the right message for the African-American electorate, why would it be the case that’s on the people that one by one departed the party.”
Swerdlick then referred to a point Jackson made about the GOP’s non-existent African-American outreach, saying, “It almost sounded like the next thing you could have said was, ‘They had to leave because they didn’t have anything to sell to Black voters.’”
Watch Roland Martin, Raynard Jackson, and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the mass exits of Black staffers at the RNC in the video clip above.
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