West Addresses D.C. Republicans GOP V.P. Prospect Talks Vouchers and Values
4/7/2011, 1:13 a.m.
The Republican Party of the District of Columbia recently held its annual fundraiser that featured a congressman who has the potential of becoming the first African American to be selected as a vice presidential running mate on a major party ticket in 2012.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) served as the main speaker at the District of Columbia Republican Committee's Lincoln-Douglass Dinner on March 31 at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Northwest. Allen, 50, said that the D.C. Republican Party should serve as the alternative in the District to the "one-party rule" of the Democratic Party.
"For too long, this city has had one-party rule," West said. "However, Republicans are making progress in D.C. We have to explain to District residents that the values of African Americans are the same values that the Republicans support."
West has gained critical acclaim for his fiery rhetoric and strong oratorical skills. While he has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for only three months, some Republican Party operatives and activists are speculating that he could be a vice presidential contender in 2012.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, has publicly stated that he would consider West as his running mate in 2012. West is a favorite among tea party leaders and represents a key battleground state in most presidential elections.
D.C. Republican Committee Chairman Robert Kabel said that selecting the south Florida congressman as the main speaker was not a difficult choice and the party leadership was not bothered by his strong connections to the tea party movement.
"We have had a variety of speakers and we are impressed by the fact that this man is the first African-American congressman from Florida," said Kabel who lives in Northwest.
"We have observed him and find him fascinating. We think that it is important that people from D.C. hear from him."
West, a native of Atlanta, was also attractive to the party "because Atlanta is a big city just like D.C," he said.
In his 20-minute speech, West talked about the importance of serving his country.
"My father was a soldier in World War II and he taught me what an honor it is to serve our country," he said.
"Serving our country will make us better, smarter and more proud of our country. To me, it is an honor to serve in the 'People's House.'"
West blasted the Democratic Party for its prejudices when it comes to minorities.
"The Democrats judge people by the color of their skin," he said. "They want to give a handout instead of a hand-up."
He extolled traditional Republican values of individual liberty and personal responsibility.
"The pursuit of happiness not the federal government's guarantee of happiness should be the goal," he said.
"Nothing can hold you back unless you put barriers on yourself."
Along those lines, West talked about his recent vote to reauthorize school vouchers for District of Columbia parents. He said that he voted for the bill, sponsored by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that would allow taxpayer funds to pay for the tuition of District school students who attend non-public schools, because it would help "the neediest children get a quality education."
He also mentioned that his vote conflicted with the views of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). In response to Norton, he asked rhetorically, "Can you tell me who [your] no vote serves?"
"Who do you stand with?" he asked. "Do you stand with the teachers union or do you stand with low-income children?"
West encouraged D.C. Republicans to be vigilant. He urged District residents to join the party and said that the time to do so is now.
"Black Americans are frustrated with Obama and the leaders of the Democratic Party," he said.
"They share the values of the Republican Party. Many Black people whisper to me when no one is around that they agree with the Republican Party, but they are afraid to lose their status as Democrats."
D.C. Republican activist Crystal Wright agrees with West.
"Blacks have whispered to me that they support Republican values," said Wright, a resident of Northwest and a critic of D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).
"More Blacks are rethinking their affiliation," she said.
Wright said that West is "an inspiration and has a bright future in 2012." However, she noted that some things must change.
"The Republican Party is perceived as the party of the White male and that is not true," she said. "We have to work on that." WI