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The Republican National Committee's Top Black Outreach Official Has Left

In the lead-up to 2018, the party is set to unveil a new program banking on a strategy of engagement focused on policy issues to reach black voters.

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After the election, black outreach at the Republican National Committee has been depleted — but that could be about to change.

Telly Lovelace, who took on a portfolio of responsibilities in black outreach, press strategy, and field engagement at the Republican National Committee, is no longer with the party, he confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

With its department of strategic initiatives ramping up an effort to build a ground game, the RNC says new hires will be focused on training organizers to talk to voters in communities of color with the goal of being able to articulate what the party is doing and what commonalities exist between the party and those communities.

The strategy is focused on keeping communities engaged on issues like school choice leading up to 2018 midterm elections. The party wants voters of color to see that it understands the issues they care about and that it has an interest in helping remedy problems.

The program, yet to be announced formally by the party, could be hampered by the energizing of a brand of nationalist populist politics popularized in part by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon that has turned off black voters among other groups. The Republican Party faces — in addition to the existing Democratic lean of black voters — President Trump's current unpopularity, and deeper unpopularity with black voters.

Ryan Mahoney, a spokesperson for the RNC, said the pivot toward 2018 is an evolution of the engagement strategy that came out of its Growth and Opportunity Project following the 2012 election. "It’s not like we’re retooling," he said. "We're taking things that worked well and didn’t work well and basing our program off of that [feedback]."

The RNC hired a bevy of black political talent in an effort to turn out black voters in 2016. The RNC also invested in data, and launched a listening tour inside barbershops in key states like Ohio.

But the project was not without its intermittent problems. Infighting and bickering over responsibility, and power struggles, were a distraction during the campaign. They accompanied tension between some inside the RNC and Omarosa Manigault, who ran black outreach for the campaign and currently handles related matters inside the White House.

Lovelace told BuzzFeed News it was time to leave, and that he had hoped the 2016 effort resulted with more black staffers being placed in jobs inside the White House.

Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Darren Sands at darren.sands@buzzfeed.com.

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