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Hoping to build on the gains former President Donald Trump made with African American voters, the Republican National Committee says it plans to open Black Community Centers in states that are expected to be competitive in next year’s midterm elections.
The RNC has committed to spending $2 million on the outreach centers officials say they plan to begin opening as early as this spring in battleground states across the country.
“The RNC has made a dedicated effort to engage with the Black community year-round – not just a few weeks before a presidential election,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to McClatchy. “We are serious about minority voter engagement because we know the Republican Party has an empowering message and policies that work for all Americans and the Black community.”
While Trump won just 12% of Black voters in the 2020 election, that still accounted for the largest share of any Republican presidential candidate since former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole’s unsuccessful bid for the White House in 1996, according to exit polls.
The former president improved on his 2016 performance, when he won 8% of Black voters nationwide. Trump’s campaign and the RNC opened “Black Voices” community centers in 15 cities with the RNC in the last election cycle.
Leases on those buildings have since lapsed, and the RNC has not said where the new centers will be. But officials with the group say its new community centers are likely to be located in similar cities and states to the ones they opened before.
In 2020, the RNC’s community centers were located in Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida. All of those states except Michigan have U.S. Senate races on the ballot in 2022.
The RNC said it also made a six-figure ad buy in Black newspapers in the month of February in many of those same states.
Ads that are running in 23 Black newspapers in 13 states feature local Black Republicans and talk up policies the GOP says will be beneficial to Black communities.
In addition to the Senate, Republicans are also hopeful they can win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022 after cutting into Democrats’ majority in the last election.
But competing with Democrats for Black voters remains a tall order for the GOP. Black voters, and Black women in particular, are a core constituency of the Democratic Party.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold that office, have likewise said that racial equity will be a pillar of their agenda.
Paris Dennard, senior communications advisor for Black Media Affairs at the RNC, told McClatchy the money the GOP is spending on its Black engagement strategy is “in direct response to the positive gains made with Black voters for the GOP in 2020.”