For far too long the ‘Grand Old Party’ has been known more for its demographic makeup than its policies. Long thought of as a party of old white men, the Republican National Committee and its affiliated party committees have made great strides to shed this reputation – particularly among the African-American population.
And African-Americans are listening, albeit it gradually. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won 7 percent of African-American voters nationwide against President Barack Obama, a noteworthy figure considering that the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, won just a single percent of the vote. The party has even successfully recruited more African-American politicians than before, including Saratoga Springs, Utah Mayor Mia Love, who is largely expected to replace Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in Congress next session.
This trend is likely to continue with the emergence of several young stars like Kerri Elizabeth Price. Price – a Toledo, Ohio native – has been privy to adversity since her childhood days. Her parents saw first-hand the decades of racial strife that most Americans just hear about in history class.
“Toledo has a really strange racial history. They have a lot of racial tensions in the 70s, early 80s and even more recently,” she told Red Alert Politics. “It’s not the best place to be when you’re a mixed race child. I kind of always wanted to get out of the Toledo area.”
Price did get out of the Buckeye State after high school, when she left for the hallowed halls of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. It was when she graduated and arrived in the nation’s capital with a suitcase and $500 in hand, however, that her political career truly began.
“I just had a passion for constitutionally-sound policy making making as silly as that sounds and I thought, you know, that my dedication could stand on its own and somebody would take a chance on me and straight away,” she said.
Luckily someone did reach out to her – former Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Price was one of the first hires for his youth-centric presidential campaign in the summer of 2007, back when the headquarters was located above a dry cleaner in Arlington, Va.
“We had no idea what were doing at all, but we were just really passionate about it,” was how she described the early days of the campaign.
Paul’s campaign picked up that November after a successful overnight fundraising drive, and Price found herself flying from state to state until her libertarian idol eventually dropped out of the race on Super Tuesday.
Having had her fill of the campaign life, Price took a job for Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.). She spent the next four years working for the man whom she considers to be her political mentor, first as a legislative aide and later his communications director.
Price also had the unique ability to further study some of her passions through Fortenberry’s legislative brief. Fortenberry’s position at the time as Vice Chairman of the Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee allowed Price to immerse herself in African studies on a professional level. She also found herself privy to a rare occurrence on Capitol Hill these days – bipartisan cooperation – while working with the Congressional Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Caucus.
“People don’t think about the kind of cooperation that goes into those truly non-partisan issues like that,” she said.
Today, Price is a graduate student at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., where she has come across a new challenge within the conservative movement: Getting more Millennials and minorities involved with the California Republican Party. Taking the lessons she learned from her time on the Paul campaign and in Washington, Price hopes she can help revitalize the movement in the Golden State. Already
“There aren’t really coordinated volunteer efforts out here. They have no African-American outreach plans – at all. Their Asian-American outreach is very fledgling and has just started,” she said. “The Hispanic outreach isn’t much to speak of either.”
And Price has experience in this. While working in Washington, she connected with other black Republicans working on the Hill and together they successfully lobbied the Republican National Committee and other party organizations to increase their minority outreach efforts. Today, the party has press secretaries for most minority groups, as well as a National Youth Director, to maximize its outreach to groups once largely ignored.
“With Black History month the RNC has had a lot of filler events and there’s been some talk that it’s a lot of nothing,” she said, noting how pleased she is that the party is making these strides.
“There’s something far more lasting there hopefully that the RNC is doing right now and I want to see those efforts carry on across the country,” she added.
This piece has been updated.