CLEVELAND – Nearly one-quarter of the African-American delegates at the Republican National Convention are from Georgia. That’s out of an estimated 18 black delegates at the party’s bash in Cleveland, where 2,472 delegates gathered this week to nominate Donald Trump.
It’s likely the lowest number of black delegations nationwide at a Republican convention in generations, but for Georgia it’s a recent high.
The state’s contingent in Cleveland includes four black delegates – Ashley Bell, Michael McNeely, Eric Johnson and Bruce LeVell – and six black alternates. Compare that to 2012, when Georgia sent five black delegates and alternates.
The Georgia GOP’s outreach effort is helmed by Leo Smith, who gained national attention when he predicted Trump can “easily get 20 percent of black voters.” Democrats have dismissed such projections, and the party’s minority engagement program, as a “masquerade of progress.”
“It’s maddening to think that after all the progress we’ve made under President Obama, the GOP believes that this is the time for a xenophobic president and a homophobic vice-president – but here we are,” said Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Michael Smith.
Members of Georgia’s delegation to Cleveland said they’re confident a growing number of minorities will switch to the GOP, giving the party a hedge as changing demographics pose a long-term threat to Republican rule in the state.
“Our party is not as scary as the media makes it sound,” said Vivian Childs, a member of Georgia’s GOP contingent. “Once they find out what we’re really about, then it’s easier for them to accept being a part of this organization – or not be so afraid.”
Our AJC colleague Erica Hernandez talked to Emory University professor Andra Gillespie, who is here in Cleveland, and several of the delegates about the party’s challenges. Check out her video above.