Ashley Bell, the former Hall County commissioner who famously lost his seat in 2012 after switching his allegiance to the GOP, has taken a Washington job as part of a long-term Republican National Committee effort to reach out to black Americans.
Bell said that, at least for the time being, his wife and kids will stay here. His immediate task will be to coordinate messaging and organization in 11 presidential battleground states. Georgia could become one more.
Last week’s AJC poll showed Democrat Hillary Clinton with a slim lead over Republican Donald Trump in the state. Clinton had the support of 87 percent of African-Americans polled. Trump had the support of 2 percent of black voters.
“We have a big hill to climb. I understand that more than anybody. For me this is as much personal as it is political,” Bell said. The former county commissioner, an attorney by trade, said he’ll be working with all levels of campaign in the selected states, from the Trump presidential effort on down to Senate and gubernatorial contests.
Bell has been part of the Republican attempt to broaden its demographic appeal since 2013, when RNC chair Reince Priebus conducted an “autopsy” into Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 bid for president.
In Cleveland, Bell was tapped as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. (See the video above.)
Tuesday’s RNC announcement also pointed to two other hires:
Shannon Reeves, assistant professor of political science at Alabama A & M University, will advise the RNC on statistical data analysis and African-American voter identification.
Elroy Sailor, founder and CEO of the J.C Watts Companies and a former consultant for the Rand Paul presidential campaign, will serve as a senior advisor to Priebus. (Small footnote: Elroy Sailor, a Morehouse College grad, was a distant cousin to Ron Sailor Sr., the Atlanta TV host and clergyman who died in 2013).
Elroy Sailor said his role at the RNC is decidedly long-term, and will focus on building institutions within the GOP framework. Said Sailor:
“With the browning of America, there will not be enough numbers to have a cohesive two-party system – there will not be enough people of color within the Republican party.
“That average African-American out there – if you want to start finding out how the Republican party impacts your life, there’s the NAACP, there’s the Urban League, just about every state has a black legislative caucus. Most of the mayors in our urban areas are Democrats.
“There’s a preponderance of policy and a marketplace of ideas out there, of center-left solutions to our community. But there’s not a preponderance of center-right solutions on the Republican side of the aisle.”
Sailor’s job will be to build them.