By Ray Melick

For Republicans, connecting with minority voters in a positive way is the holy grail of electoral politics.

Alabama party leaders are hoping that the election last summer of Kenneth Paschal to the state House of Representatives, making him the first Republican African-American elected to the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction, was the first sign of engaging what they believe is a base of mostly disconnected conservative minority voters in the state.

The Alabama Republican Party introduced Paschal as the Director of a new “Minority Outreach Team” at the party headquarters in Hoover, on Thursday, Oct. 21. He is joined by Co-Director Belinda Thomas, Newton City Council member; past Senior Vice-Chair of the ALGOP George Williams; Chairman of the Montgomery Chapter of the Alabama Minority GOP William Green; and Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Republican Committee Christian Horn.

Paschal believes that the values he ran on and won as a candidate in Shelby County’s House District 73 will resonate with voters in minority communities.

“I wasn’t elected because of the color of my skin,’’ Paschal said. “But on my character. Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s dream is alive.“

He just has to get past the word “Republican.”

“I understand that many in the Black community have a problem with the word ‘Republican,” Paschal said. “But we have a two-party political system, so the question is, which party aligns most closely with your beliefs?

“We have to change the narrative to values and beliefs. I know there are Democrats who want safe communities, who want to enhance the family unit, who want better education, not only through school choice but also improving the schools we have, who want individual freedom and liberty. I say let’s table those two words (Republican and Democrat) and talk about what is important to you and then decide which party most closely aligns with your personal values? And what I have found is, a lot of the time, those folks come over to the Republican way of thinking.”

Republicans in Alabama have lost only one statewide race since 2008, the 2017 Senate special election where Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore (a result reversed in the 2020 regular election when current Senator Tommy Tuberville defeated Jones). In the 2020 Presidential election, while former President Donald Trump, a Republican, carried the state with 78% of the total vote, Democratic candidate Joe Biden carried 91% of the Black vote, a percentage that only varied slightly in down-ballot races.

Alabama Republican Party Chair John Wahl believes that can change.

“The Democratic Party wants you to believe that all minorities share their liberal views,” Wahl said. “We are going to challenge that false stereotype. There are thousands of conservative people in minority groups across the state, and they deserve to have a voice and be recognized.”

Thomas became the first African American woman elected to the Newton City Council and has since become the first woman of color to serve as Chairperson of the Newton Water Board. Williams, Green, and Horn have long histories with the Alabama Republican Party.

“This is long overdue,’’ said George Williams, an African-American who was elected Senior Vice Chairman of the Alabama GOP, the second-highest-ranking GOP official in the state, in 2008. “We have had Black Republicans all over Alabama run for office, but none were elected until now. We have Black Republicans in Alabama. We’re here. The media says there are no Black Republicans in Alabama. The media is wrong – again.”

The Minority Outreach Team held a three-hour organizational meeting after the press conference Thursday.