Washington (CNN) - As the GOP aggressively tries to appeal to more black voters, the chairman of the Republican National Committee argued Tuesday that Republican candidates and elected officials "need to get out there" and "go to places they haven't been in far too long."
"Why? Because the first step is showing up," Reince Priebus said Tuesday at an awards ceremony for black Republicans at the famous Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.
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Priebus acknowledged that Republicans had not been doing enough outreach in previous years.
"We have suffered as a national party for becoming a party that has shown up once every four years, about three months before an election," he said. "That is a losing strategy, and it has come to an end."
Following the GOP's 2012 presidential loss, when Republican nominee Mitt Romney only captured 6% of the African-American vote according to national exit polls, the RNC vowed to change its marketing strategy to minority voters.
As part of the RNC's post-election review, Priebus announced last March that the party committee would spend $10 million on new staff in mostly urban communities. RNC co-chair Sharon Day said Tuesday they now have staff in 11 states.
The chairman also highlighted last year's chartering of College Republicans at Morehouse College, a historically black college in Georgia, as a major milestone for the party and a big step towards building "a new generation of black Republicans."
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While Priebus touted the RNC's efforts in the past year to bolster black voter outreach, he argued they still have a ways to go.
"Guys, I want to make you proud of this party," he told the mostly black audience.
Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 presidential contender, has made similar statements in the past about Republicans needing to go to more black communities. The Kentucky Republican spoke at Howard University and Simmons College last year, two historically black colleges in Washington and Louisville, respectively.
About 300 people attended the awards lunch Tuesday, including current and former lawmakers, as well as other political figures in the black Republican community.
Hilary Shelton, the Washington, D.C. bureau director of the NAACP, was also there, as well as a couple of Washington Redskins players and singer Toni Braxton's sister, Traci Braxton, according to the RNC.
The event Tuesday marked the RNC's second annual "Trailblazer" award ceremony to recognize black Republicans. This year's honorees were former Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan; former Assistant Secretary of Labor William Brooks; and Judge Sara Harper, the first black woman to serve on the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve Judiciary and one of the first two women elected to the Ohio District Court of Appeals.
As part of its recognition of Black History Month, the RNC also bought radio and print ads for the first time ever to recognize prominent black Republicans.
Democrats, however, argue the RNC's efforts are hollow and may simply amount to another broken promise. They point to repeated pledges by the RNC in the past decade to make gains with voters in urban areas.
Kiara Pesante, director of African-American media at the Democratic National Committee, said Republicans will have a tough time on the policy level, citing the recent debate over a provision in the Voting Rights Act and the GOP push against Obamacare as two big issues that Republicans will struggle with among black voters.
"No matter how many offices they open, or how many people they hire, or how many special events they host, the Republicans simply can't explain away that harsh reality," she said.
RNC clarifies tweet that suggests racism is over
Actor Joseph Phillips, best known for his role on "The Cosby Show," co-hosted Tuesday's event at the Howard Theatre. He said the difference between previous outreach attempts and the RNC's current effort is a more organized plan to be on the ground year-round in certain communities.
"I think that's the key thing...This idea that some politician shows up at a convention and makes a speech–and somehow that qualifies as being engaged with the community and caring about the community? That's nonsense," he said, referring to previous GOP patterns. "What really counts are people in the community, actually working with real people who have real concerns and addressing those issues."
To combat criticism that the RNC's outreach efforts are disingenuous or simply political, Phillips said the GOP needs to continue pushing its core principles but also condemn hateful, racist language.
"None of this means anything unless this party distances itself from a small group of people who use this party and use conservative principles as cover for their idiotic ideas," he told CNN at the event, saying he wasn't talking about tea party conservatives, but "hateful, ugly people who claim and march under this (GOP) mantle."
"This party has got to distance themselves from them in order to really, really make headway with black voters," he argued. "That's the honest truth. Some people don't want to hear it, but that's the honest truth."
Black Republican = OXYMORON – emphasis on last two syllables.
They come up with new voter suppression laws all the time and try to disguise them as voter integrity laws.. even though they can't come up with any proofof voter fraud.. Do they think black people are stupid??
I believe that history will show that we, AMERICANS, Republicans/TeaParty, treated our first Black President with the utmost disrespect, hatred, bigotry, contempt, and out and out destructive lying- which will be a permanent stain on our country's history. Never have I read such ugly stuff on so many sites both professional sites and just routine commentary. So now bring on a woman so that i have to hear the c-word, the b-word,the s-word, emotional jokes, and oh yes their benghazi murderess cry.
Good luck with that! Most black people are smart enough NOT to vote against their best interest – you know – like GOP supporters who are just ordinary folks, not as special as they think they are.
Yeah, they spend 5+ years trying to destroy the first black president, to dehumanize and 'otherize' him, and they think they're going to endear themselves to the black community. and the sun is going to come up in the west tomorrow, too. everyone not a multimillionaire is cutting his own throat voting republican. i really hope the black community and every other minority in this country are smart enough to realize that. wish more white middle-class and poor people would hurry up and figure it out.
Given the lack of respect Republicans showed the first black president, this should be oh so fun to watch.
Perhaps if the RNC would come out in favor of making it easier to vote, not harder, by restoring absentee balloting, extended polling station hours, and simpler registration in places that have made that an issue, they'd sound a little more credible.
As it is, I don't hear "We care about the black community," I hear "We care about black votes."
Wake up people
. I agree wholeheartedly with you comment.
I would like to also like to ad, that it is not the tone
or the way republican say their spiel. Rather it is their
Policies that they have toward us.
It is funny how the policies always seems to befogotten
The black community is not lazy, nor are looking for a handout.
What black want is racial, economic , and personal equality.
They are optimistic. They believe you'll have a very short memory and an even shorter attention span, during the next election.
Apparently the second step is minority voter suppression because that's what Republicans are engaging in around the country.
It is nice that there is an outreach attempt, but I think that there has to be something to show for it as well. What are they planning on doing to talk to other groups?
-first you guys need to stop crying on Healthcare. Whether you digest this hard core pill or not, ACA IS A LAW. Period. Stop whining like idiots, even third world is laughing at you.
Obama picks and chooses which laws he wants to enforce all the time, so you cannot say "ACA is a law. period." It doesn't matter.
Congratulation, "Wake up"! I am white, but have the same opinion!
That the head of the RNC is on the stomp to "reach out" to minority voters/communities is a tell on how fractured and dysfunctional the Republican Party has become since the "Great Communicator" set them on a wrong and disastrous path. Now they don't want to change that path....only make it appear so. And such is the REAL aim of Priebus and others who actually are advocating a continuance of their own demagoguery. The only REAL chance they have is to continue their agenda of dirty tricks: gerrymandering districts; voter suppression; and, pushing for more and more corporate money influence buying in our elections. The GOP will continue its smoke and mirrors not caring how it is fracturing the country and still clinging to the defunct "trickle down" theory. Protecting the ability to make and hoard money by the few will remain their priority until they totally self-destruct.
Are these guys serious ? They shut down and hinder African American voting rights , do everything
like promoting bigotry and treason then they expect to welcomed with open arms by African Americans .
lets remember this history lessen . When LBJ started intergration Dixiecrats left in droves because of it .
Where did they go ?? To the GOP !! Think about it !
I remember when they sent those blondes after their favorite Uncle Tom Herman Cain when he got too big for his britches.
Dr Ben Carson better pay attention.
Some more crap from the GOp/TEA party. If you are serious, do something positive about voting rights and redistricting.
What are they going to use Pod People!
The rnc is like the Mormon church. They allowed Blacks because it was the "right" thing to do in the 21st century and they need money. Now that I think about it don't they and their followers think that most Blacks are on welfare?
They don't want you folks. You are all tokens to them.
GOP will never win any elections any time soon,they will really have a hard time finding black voters if they continue "LYING"about the healthcare & their refusal to work with Obama & also their racist voting laws,GOD hates dishonest scales
As the saying goes: "It.s not the colour of the skin, but the Heart that beats Within". God"hath made of ONE blood ALL
Nations of Men..to dwell on..the Earth" (Acts 17: 26)