GOP national chairman exhorts activists to reach out to women, minorities, young

March 17, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

In his first official visit to Maryland, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson urged Howard County's party activists to focus on core GOP issues while reaching out to women, minorities and young voters.

Polls have shown that those groups have favored Democrats in recent elections, causing Republican defeats despite the party's growing support among white men.

"We have to do a better job of communicating our ideas with working women, with minorities, with young voters so that it relates to their lives," Nicholson said. "To do that, we don't have to compromise any of our ideas."

He was speaking to more than 330 GOP activists attending Howard County's Lincoln Day dinner at Turf Valley Hotel & Conference Center last night.

The event is the local party's biggest annual fund-raiser.

Last night's affair brought out every Republican elected official in the county -- four state delegates, three county councilmen, two state senators, County Executive Charles I. Ecker, U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and others.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who in her role as Republican national committeewoman helped arrange Nicholson's visit, also attended, receiving a standing ovation before she introduced him.

Ecker, who may run against Sauerbrey for the party's 1998 gubernatorial nomination, also was warmly received.

Nicholson was virtually unknown outside of his home state of Colorado before being elected RNC chairman this year. But as keynote speaker, he helped push attendance nearly one-third higher than usual for a Lincoln Day dinner in Howard.

GOP officials said they made more than $5,000 last night.

In his speech, Nicholson emphasized such common Republican themes as lowering taxes, balancing the federal budget and reforming education.

Nicholson mixed in a few jabs at Democrats, whose aggressive fund raising for the 1996 election has prompted widespread calls for campaign-finance reform.

But Nicholson said he does not favor new laws that might intrude on freedom of speech.

"This whole hullabaloo about campaign-finance reform is because the Democrats have not obeyed the law," said Nicholson to a rare burst of applause from the crowd.

"I think it's pathetic for the president of the United States to stand up and invoke the victim syndrome and say, 'They made me do it. The Republicans were going to win,' " he added.

But on his plea for increasing membership in the Republican Party, Nicholson offered almost no details, other than urging party loyalists to stick to the issues that unite them.

He briefly mentioned "partial-birth abortions," a controversial procedure Republicans want to ban, and the importance of family. But he otherwise stayed away from the social issues that often have divided Republicans.

Despite the shortage of details, Delroy L. Cornick Sr., president of Howard's African-American Republican Club, applauded Nicholson's focus on recruiting minorities into the party.

"I think his program resonates very well, not only with us but with African-Americans in general," Cornick said.

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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