Rand Paul To Speak At Historically Black University In Bowie, Maryland

AP/Stephan Savoia
AP/Stephan Savoia
Washington, DC

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will speak on Friday afternoon to historically black Bowie State University about his criminal justice reform efforts.

“It is important for our party to show up at venues which in the past might not have been a priority,” Paul told Breitbart News about the forthcoming speech. “I look forward to being at Bowie State University tomorrow. Showing up is only part of the solution, we must also embrace policies which are fair and just. I will be discussing the importance of reforming the criminal justice system, and highlighting numerous pieces of legislation which I have introduced on this subject.”

Paul, a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, has taken extraordinary efforts to reach out to voting blocs that have traditionally voted for Democrats—including the black community—by visiting places including Ferguson, Missouri, and Detroit, Michigan.

Paul’s plan for reviving Detroit’s economy—which has faltered under the weight of big government in the city and in the state—is to create a “stimulus” with what he calls “economic freedom zones,” places where citizens wouldn’t have to send much taxes if any at all to Washington.

“Economic freedom zones will, over a 10-year period, if my bill were to pass, leave over $1.3 billion in Detroit,” Paul said in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club in December 2013 while rolling out his legislation. “So for those who say, ‘Oh, it won’t work, it won’t be enough money,’ we’ve calculated it: $1.3 billion stimulus, not from Houston, not from Atlanta, from you. It’s your money. We’re not going to take it to Washington, we’ll leave it with you. How could anybody be opposed to this?”

On criminal justice reform, Paul has introduced several major pieces of legislation—most notably the REDEEM Act, which he rolled out with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“I think it’s an issue that we both believe strongly in,” Paul said in a joint interview with Booker on PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff last summer.

I think it’s the number one impediment or one of the chief impediments to unemployment. People can’t get a job because they have to check off a box saying they’re a felon. There are five million people who have lost the right to vote. There’s also five million people who are out of jail who have been convicted of felonies that I think it’s denying them an opportunity to get a job.

The REDEEM Act would, according to PBS, “make it easier for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes to expunge or seal those convictions from their records, lift the federal ban on food stamps and welfare benefits for low-level drug offenders, offer incentives to states that currently try juveniles as adults to encourage them to raise the age to 18, and ban solitary confinement for children, except in the most dangerous cases.”

The REDEEM Act has gotten strong support from conservatives around the country, as Col. Rob Maness—a 2014 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, who’s since launched GATOR PAC and is a likely future very serious contender for national office in the state—publicly backed the legislation on the campaign trail.

“The REDEEM Act addresses the issue that non-violent youthful mistakes should not lead to a lifetime of unemployment, crime, and hardship,” Maness said during the campaign, in which he received more than 200,000 votes statewide then endorsed now Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) against now former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

While speaking to the Alabama Republican Party at a dinner in February, Paul talked about his efforts–with police officers from Tarrant, Alabama as his guests at the dinner–to move criminal justice reform efforts through the Congress.

“In this story, just before Christmas, Helen Johnson went to get some eggs in Tarrant, Alabama, just north of Birmingham,” Paul said–referencing the story of a woman who police helped with charity after she committed a minor nonviolent crime rather than putting her in prison or through the rigorous justice ringer. “Her kids had been at home with her and her kids’ kids had been at home with her and they hadn’t eaten in two days. She got to the store and she had $1.25 and was 50 cents short of buying her eggs. She made a fateful decision that day. She decided to steal the eggs. She put them in her pocket but she was caught before she left the store.”

The Tarrant police officer arrived on the scene, though, and something extraordinary happened. The Tarrant police office, I think, used discretion. He told her stealing was wrong, that she shouldn’t steal, and then he bought the eggs for her.

Then in the next days and weeks, the Tarrant police force went to take food to her house. When people talk about community policing, this is the kind of stuff that doesn’t get reported. We do have to have police to stop violent criminals but we have to have some discretion and some discernment and some help.

Every day, somewhere, some police are helping someone in a house with needs, or helping someone without food. But all we hear are the bad stories. I invited as my guests today two Tarrant police officers, chief Dennis Reno and Lieutenant Larry Rice. I’d like to recognize them.”

The crowd rose in applause, giving a standing ovation for the officers Paul had as his guests.

Paul argues frequently that conservatives and Republicans do need to expand the GOP’s reach into new communities where the party has struggled in recent elections–like the black community–but do so in a way that doesn’t compromise conservative principles. That’s why he focuses on matters like criminal justice reforms with black audiences, anti-NSA spying matters with young audiences and things like adoption reform with hispanic and immigrant audience.

Unlike former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, however, Paul still sticks true to the conservative Republican principles in the party platform–something that won’t kill Paul with the GOP base. Because of Bush’s many positions where he aligns against the Republican base–Paul said in a recent interview with Breitbart News–Bush will have an “electability problem” because he’s actually going to be shrinking the amount of people voting for him in the general election should he win the GOP nomination. That’s because conservatives in the Republican base may stay home in such high percentages that any new voters from the Democratic side Bush may pick up are offset by the GOP voter abstentions.

“I think his main electability problem is with the Republican base,” Paul said of Bush in a recent Breitbart News interview.

What you need, I think, is someone who has the ability to excite the Republican base and expand the party. You can’t have someone who is so moderate that they think they can get the moderate vote but can’t excite the Republican base.

I think that is the biggest obstacle he has to overcome, is that being a moderate in a conservative party is difficult. When you refer to conservatives in the third person, as he did recently, that makes it even more difficult I think to connect with conservatives. When the first person you call when you decide to run is Hillary Clinton, that doesn’t really endear you to the grassroots.