Before I get started let me say I’m supporting Sharyl Dawes in the GOP School Superintendent race. She’s a close friend and has been for a number of years. This post is not meant to advocate for Ashley Bell but to use my small bully pulpit to advocate for a larger issue I think is important.
It’s no secret the GOP isn’t attracting many votes from the African-American community. It’s also no secret that many in the GOP have been saying we need to do better and we must figure out a way to attract more African-American and minority voters to the Republican party. Something is going on in the GOP race for School Superintendent that I believe is harmful to our party’s efforts to attract more minority support.
Ashley Bell switched parties a couple of years ago. At the time he was a County Commissioner in Hall County and considered by some to be an “up and comer” in the Georgia Democratic Party. It was news when he switched. Since then he lost re-election in Hall but earlier this year he joined the cast of thousands in the race for Georgia’s School Superintendent. Does he have a chance? Who knows, but he has a much right to run as anyone else in the race.
Being a former Democrat, a former Democratic elected official, and a former rising star in Democratic politics, it should not come as a surprise to learn that Ashley Bell voted for, said nice things about, and probably even campaigned for Democrats. Apparently this has shocked some people and they are out there trying to spread the word about his past.
It’s easy to get caught up in “who’s the most Republican” in the Republican primary. Republicans these days love to toss out that this or that person is a “RINO” but did Republicans disqualify Reagan, Perdue, Deal, and a host of others who switched parties at some point in their careers?
Is it fair to expect African-Americans to be held to a higher standard than others who switched parties? Can we really expect African-Americans to join the GOP if they think how they voted in the past will be held over their heads if they ever try to run for office as a Republican? We can’t say “we want more African-Americans to join the GOP” out of one side of our mouths and “We’ll never support someone for office who used to vote for Democrats” out of the other.
A candidate’s voting record and public statements are not off limits in a campaign and I’m not advocating anyone be given a pass. If Bell is going to win the GOP School Superintendent nomination he’s going to have to convince enough of his fellow Republicans he’s the right person for the job – just like every other candidate in the race. However, I want to urge my fellow Republicans to tread lightly when it comes to hammering African-American Republicans about their voting history.
Someone out there has set up a Facebook page accusing Ashley Bell of “pretending” to be a Republican. In my view that’s unfair and harmful to the Republican Party. Whoever is behind that line of attack ought to knock it off.
That’s my opinion and I welcome yours.