RNC Shutting Down Community Centers Aimed at Minority Outreach

RNC Shutting Down Community Centers Aimed at Minority Outreach

The Republican National Committee, days after electing new leadership and overhauling its presidential campaign operation, is shuttering all of the community centers it established for minority outreach nationwide and laying off their staffs, according to two people briefed on the plans, a move that could impede Republicans’ efforts to court voters of color.

The community centers, which were based in several states including California, New York, North Carolina and Texas, were part of a yearslong effort to encourage Black, Latino, Asian and Native American voters to join the party. Republicans closed several minority outreach centers in battleground states more than a year ago and did not retain their minority media outreach directors.

The most recent cuts, which will affect roughly 10 community centers, were first reported by The Daily Beast, and they are part of a wave of layoffs at the R.N.C. in which over 60 party officials were let go or forced to resign and reapply for their former jobs. Allies of former President Donald J. Trump have taken over with plans to merge his campaign with the party. Staff members were notified via email that their jobs would end on March 31.

Republicans have widely promoted the community centers, which were established largely within the racial and ethnic communities they aimed to court. The centers often hosted political rallies, dances and potlucks, and some even helped community members prepare for the U.S. citizenship test. The layoffs will affect many of the R.N.C.’s employees of color, as the workers were often members of the communities themselves.

“We are currently evaluating every aspect of political and community engagement in order to align our operations with President Trump’s campaign,” said Michael Whatley, the chairman of the R.N.C., in a statement. “We have seen very positive impacts from our community engagement centers and intend to continue to utilize them to build support for President Trump and Republican candidates across the country.”

Republicans have long struggled to garner significant support from voters of color. Mr. Trump, who is counting on improved support from Black voters in November, has tried to appeal to them with heavy reliance on stereotypes and insults. Speaking before a predominantly Black audience in South Carolina last month, he suggested that his criminal indictments would help him make inroads with Black voters because they have been disproportionately targeted by the justice system.

Without an organized outreach system, it will be difficult for Republicans to turn an already fraught campaign message into actual votes this November. The elimination of the community centers compounds their challenges. In a Wednesday afternoon post on Truth Social, Mr. Trump seemed to recognize that necessity, saying that former Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina would help lead his campaign’s outreach efforts to “work with Faith Groups and Minority Communities.” (Mr. Walker was entangled in a scandal in 2019 that led to the indictment of the state’s G.O.P. chair, Robin Hayes.)

Yet, a notable fracturing of the Democratic coalition this year, particularly among Black and Latino voters, could offer something of an opening for Mr. Trump: A New York Times/Siena College poll conducted in February found that the former president had a narrow majority of support from Latino voters, while a larger share of Black voters had signaled an openness to the G.O.P.

Mr. Biden’s campaign responded to the news of the outreach centers’ closures in a statement from its Black and Hispanic media outreach directors, Maca Casado and Jasmine Harris, who called Mr. Trump’s minority outreach efforts “hollow” and “cheap distractions from the poster boy for modern racism who is running to undermine the progress and success of our communities.”

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