House Republicans are holding a panel during their retreat on Friday focused on improving their performance among women and minority voters, who broke against GOP candidates in a slew of battleground races this past election.
The House Republican Conference will convene a panel on Friday morning for their members, called a "Discussion on Successful Communication with Minorities and Women," at their annual retreat in Williamsburg, Va. The discussion is intended to help the GOP reverse its slide among women and minority voters, and foster a future Republican Party that more closely reflects the changing American populace.
A major contributing factor that led to President Barack Obama’s re-election was his strength amongst women and minorities. Huge margins with these groups in states like Ohio and Florida pushed the president to a total of 332 electoral votes and left Republicans to wrestle with how to expand their base beyond a disproportionately white and aging constituency.
Friday's panel, according to the published names, indicate it will include two Latino women, three white men and a Latino moderator. Yet the panel is not without an issue in optics; the room where the discussion will take place is called the “Burwell Plantation” room at the Kingsmill Resort.
In fact, the room is named after the Burwell Family, a wealthy family that owned many slaves in 18th century Southern Virginia. Records pertaining to the families owning of slaves is well-documented by the city of Williamsburg on their website.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who heads Republicans' campaign efforts, deflected a question regarding the irony of a panel trying to help the GOP woo minorities happening in a room named after a slave-owning family’s plantation.
"I don't pick the rooms we meet in," Walden said. "I know the Democrats have held their retreats here too and I assume you'll go and figure out if they ever held meetings in that same room."
When pressed on why there were three white men (half the group) on a panel regarding minority outreach Walden said, "Actually, I don't do this part of it, by the way, somebody can fill you in on all the names, but it is more than just three white guys on the panel, and it was filled out after that went to press."
Walden made known that minority outreach and recruiting minority House GOP candidates were a “top priority” and that the GOP had a “good message” for minorities but had suffered from a recent "bad communications."