Chatham GOP reaches out to younger voters, women and minorities |


Chatham GOP reaches out to younger voters, women and minorities |

Robert Donaldson wore nice slacks, a Brooks Brothers shirt, a striped tie, a cashmere sweater, and Johnson & Murphy boots.

The tall black man joined Lis Overton, who chairs the Chatham County Republican Party, at an upscale Skidaway Island club.

Donaldson, one of the vice-chairs, drew quizzical stares from white bar patrons watching an America’s Cup yacht race — and from the mostly African-American wait staff.

“It’s uncharted territory,” said Donaldson. “No one knows quite what to make of me. It’s a weird duality.”

So, perhaps, are the Chatham Republicans these days. A bit like the old ad about new Buicks, they’re not Daddy’s GOP.

Since May, Overton has used her gifts for chatting up and pulling people together in a local effort — soon due to be replicated nationwide — to rebrand the party.

She’s acutely aware that it’s widely spurned among increasingly critical voting blocs: Minorities, women and young people. Together, they’re an overwhelming majority in Chatham — and across the country.

“We’ve let Democrats define us as the party of rich, old white men,” she said. “We have to fight back.”

Even so, GOP leaders concede the perception is partly true and that they need to change it with an infusion of new blood.

Chatham Republicans have diversified their executive board and hope to win favor among a broader segment of the wider community.

“But people have to see us involved in the community before they trust us enough to listen to us,” Overton said.

So the group’s joining efforts to help homeless children and combat crime. There’s also talk of volunteering at local marathons and entering a float in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade.

Trying to lead by example, Overton is a poll worker in a mostly African-American precinct. Asked whether she wanted to supervise, she said she replied, “No, I want to be a worker bee.”

Donaldson, who’s in the recording business and says he’s a “rapper who reads the Wall Street Journal,” concedes winning converts won’t be easy.

via Chatham GOP reaches out to younger voters, women and minorities |

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