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Rand Paul: 'Republicans need to show up' in black community

Rand Paul: 'Republicans need to show up' in black community

by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 21, 2013 at 9:29 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- It wasn't that the Plymouth Community Renewal Center in Louisville's Russell neighborhood needed U.S. Senator Rand Paul to bag the chickens at their food pantry distribution on Friday.
It was that he was here at all.

"I think Republicans need to show up in places where we haven't been showing up," Paul said to reporters after assisting with the pantry work.

Paul said his visits Friday in Louisville's West End are not about trying to win votes.  Yet, after fellow Republican Mitt Romney got only an estimated six percent of the black vote last year, Paul is reaching out to African-Americans ahead of his own possible presidential run in 2016.

"We were impressed that he wanted to come down and find out what was going on with the people in our community," said Marcum French, Executive Director of the Plymouth Community Renewal Center.  "It also lets our people in our community know that people outside of this community care about their issues and their concerns."

Paul said his West End visits Friday were not overtly political. 

"I want people to know that I do care about all communities of Louisville and all of Kentucky and trying to figure out... I mean we have had some good ideas," Paul said to reporters.  "We've discussed a couple of legislative ideas that may help this section of town with different ways to rejuvenate abandoned property, things like that."

WHAS11 learned that Paul had private discussions in the West End on Friday on a number of issues, including on his belief that federal sentencing guidelines disproportionately imprison young African-Americans.  Paul also talked scholarships with the Lincoln Foundation and a meeting with the Urban League dealt with problems faced by West End homeowners when properties are bought for tax liens.

Yet as Paul tries to market his Republican brand to the black community, he has a lot of convincing to do.

The community center, for instance, is in Precinct L104, which in the 2010 U.S. Senate election cast 447 votes for Democrat Jack Conway and only 13 for the Republican, Paul.

In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney garnered 18 votes in the precinct.  President Barack Obama got 806.

"To me, I'm not here asking for anyone's vote," Paul said.  "But I want them to know that I am a senator for the whole state whether people supported me or not or whether they're going to vote for me or not."

Paul has flexed his libertarian ideals in recent months amid a series of scandals and controversies in Washington.  He suggested that his distrust of the federal government in the National Security Agency's controversial telephone and Internet surveillance could be shared in a minority community distrustful of police authority.

"African-Americans are arrested at four to six times the rate as white Americans, particularly for non-violent drug crimes,"

Paul said.  "And so I think the idea that the government might misuse that information, might not be trustworthy, is certainly something that resonates not only here but other places." 

"And I don't really think we've caught anybody through any of this," Paul continued.

"Warrants are not hard to get, but at least it's a separation between the police and the politician and the judiciary system," Paul said.  "There was a time in our country when we would just say, 'Oh, people are guilty.'  One of it was when we judged the guilt of African-Americans by lynching."

"People say that's a dramatic comparison," Paul said.  "Well, that's why we have steps and processes to go through to make sure we don't have adjudication of guilt without a trial, without a lawyer, without a judge involved."

As Paul eyes a presidential run in 2016, could his efforts attract black voters?

"I don't know the answer to that," French replied, "but our doors are open to anybody and everybody that's concerned about the people that we serve.  And he definitely seemed concerned today about their needs and their concerns."

"So often we hear of the bad stories," Paul said.  "I wanted to hear some of the good stories of things that are going on."

Paul's outreach in the largely African-American area comes after an April appearance at Simmons College, a historically black college also in West Louisville.