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Election 2010 - The GOP and Race

March 19, 2010 - Joselyn King

An especially good candidate's forum among West Virginia's 1st District congressional candidates took place this week at Wheeling Jesuit University sponsored by We The People - Ohio Valley.

And during the event, an exchange happened that hasn't received much publicity.

The candidates present were all Republicans - Cindy Hall, Patricia Levenson, David McKinley, Tom Stark and Mac Warner. Invited but  not present were Republican Sarah Minear, Democrat Michael Oliverio and incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.

Owens Brown -- a current Democratic candidate for West Virginia House of Delegates -- asked the candidates present this question: "There's a perception in the African American community that they are not welcome in the Republican party. How do you change that perception? And why does it exist?"

"You are aware that Michael Steele is chairman of the Republican Party, and that he is black?" asked Hall. Brown responded that he was aware of Steele, but that Steele was only one person.

"I think it's a good start," Hall said.

Levenson said Americans are all working toward the same thing - to have the right to raise their families in the way they wish, and that she didn't like labels.

"I would suggest that we opened our parties just to have people come in and discuss our platforms, that would be a way to bring us together," she said.

McKinley, meanwhile, is a former chairman of the West Virginia GOP, who acknowledged his party had made some historically wrong moves that kept African Americans and other minorities out of the party.

"I wish the Republican Party had always kept its doors open . . . " McKinley said. "The party lost its way. I want very much for our party to embrace all people - all religions, all walks of life."

He noted that the Republican Party had been the party to pass the Civil Rights Act, and to assist President Abraham Lincoln's effort to free slaves.

"We have not been consistant in our message," McKinley commented. "And shame on us for the way we've done that. This is one country, one America. I'moliti sorry this issue even comes up at a forum like this."

Stark agreed that the Republican Party "having lost its way" was "50 percent of the problem."  The rest he attributed to "perpetuated myth from the other side of the aisle."

"The Republican Party just espouses a political philosophy that is diometricallly opposed to what has been encouraged in the black community -- to rely on the government for too much," he said. "If more black people came into the party as active members, they would find out more of that is perception that is reality."

Warner, who has an extensive military background, said he learned that "in a fox hole race doesn't matter."

"The issue here is not that the Republican party has held anyone out," he said.  "If you are going to come over to the conservative thinking of less government, less taxes, and more  personal responsiblity, come aboard."



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