Meet Mitt Romney's Black Leadership Council
During Democratic National Convention, GOP candidate unveils crew of African American leaders who support his bid
Mitt Romney has come a long way since he “let the dogs out” on a group of African American teenagers at a Martin Luther King, Jr. rally during his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
In July, Romney took a giant leap forward and addressed the 103rd NAACP Convention in Houston. But a more recent overture, the latest outstretched GOP hand to on-the-fence African American voters, may top the high-profile speech.
Last week, the former Massachusetts governor announced the formation of his campaign’s Black Leadership Council. The group, made up of three national council chairs and 20 advisory council members, is a mahogany collection of distinguished politicians and public figures from around the county, many of whom are anti-gay rights and anti-choice.
News of the council came just one day before President Barack Obama accepted the nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. The Republican Party, which held its convention in Tampa, Fla. the week before, is believed to have very little support among African American voters. The party’s candidate, Romney, recently polled at zero percent support from black voters, although some black Republicans dispute how representative the survey was.
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Romney’s council is tasked with helping the candidate form policies with their expertise on issues impacting the black community. (View photos of 10 members of the council in the gallery above.)
Members include high profile (and controversial) politicians like Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and former Democratic congressman Artur Davis. Some not-so-well known names to round out the list include Detroit-area pastor Ira Combs Jr. and former George W. Bush administration appointee Kay Coles James.
Combs, who is the presiding bishop at Greater Bible Way Temple in Jackson, Mich., attended the RNC this year as an at-large delegate. He did not have voting privileges this time, but has attended Republican conventions since 1996.
Combs sees his role on the council as an opportunity to educate black voters on the ways they might emerge from the depressingly high and disproportionate unemployment rate, which stubbornly remained at 14.1 percent in August.
"I think it’s an opportunity for me to inform the African American community that they have the right and freedom to decide what candidate they will support based on something other than race," Combs said during a telephone interview. "I can understand why [blacks] don't make a connection with [Romney], but this is exactly what's needed to create jobs."
Combs, whose predominantly black congregation is split evenly along party lines, believes that too many African Americans voters are "held hostage" by the Democratic Party because they are disproportionately employed in low-skilled, unionized public sector jobs. State and local austerity measures disproportionately endanger jobs held by blacks during budget cuts, according to the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California.
While he holds President Obama in a high regard, Combs disagrees with his government-based solutions to fixing the economy and believes Romney has the better plan to address issues in the African American community.
For more information on Romney's Black Leadership Council, visit its website.