Maine GOP boss: Sorry for ‘dozens of black people’ comment


Kramer Phillips

The Republican Party is already in hot water for failing to help elect former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to the White House. Before the next presidential election in 2016, the GOP needs time to regroup and develop a strategy that takes into account the country’s changing voter demographics. Maine GOP boss Charlie Webster, however, hasn’t put his best foot forward for the GOP after making some controversial comments on Wednesday.

“In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day,” Mr. Webster told WCSH-TV in Portland, Maine on Wednesday. “Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”

Despite his assurance that “dozens of black people” voted in some areas of rural Maine, Mr. Webster was unable to provide any specifics on what parts of the state had experienced unusual voter turnout. However, the Maine Republican chairman said he was going to mail thank-you cards to newly registered voters to test for voter fraud. If some of the cards came back, Mr. Webster said, he would assume that some sort of voter fraud had taken place.

The Maine GOP boss, however, realized Thursday that the way that he worded his comments may have offended some people and he set out to clarify his remarks.

“I regret saying the word black because it wasn’t like I was singling out black,” Mr. Webster told TPM’s Ryan J. Reilly. “The reason I said it, ‘cause I don’t know where you live, but where I come from in rural Maine, it’s a small percentage of the population. I think we’re the whitest state in the country. So if you go to the polls and see people who are black, it’s unusual. And when you see a lot of people who are black, like six or eight or ten people, you think, ‘Wow, where do they live?’ That was my point.”

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office in Maine confirmed with POLITICO and The Associated Press that she hadn’t heard any complaint about voter turnout in the Pine Tree State.

“We haven’t received any phone calls regarding anyone concerned about voter fraud or anything along those lines,” Megan Sanborn, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Charlie Summers, told The AP. ”Secretary Summers feels that every Maine person has the right to vote and he encourages people to vote. Maine has one of the highest voter turnouts in the state and Secretary Summers is proud of that.”

Governor Romney, several days after being defeated by President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race, didn’t put his best foot forward for his party either. During a twenty-minute conference call with donors, Mr. Romney said the the president won re-election because he was able to offer “gifts” to key Democratic constituencies, “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Judging by the reaction of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and other Republicans to Mr. Romney’s “gifts” remark, offending the voter demographics that the GOP hopes to court for the midterm and 2016 elections wasn’t exactly the plan that the Republican Party wanted to implement less than two weeks after the election.

If the Republican Party is to have any success in the midterm and 2016 elections, Mr. Webster and others in the Republican Party need to re-examine the message they’re sending to the key Democratic constituencies that they hope to win over next time around.

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Maine GOP chair questions voter turnout in his state

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