Rand on 2016: If I Run, 'I'm Competing for All Votes'

Rand on 2016: If I Run, 'I'm Competing for All Votes'

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued that the Republican Party has not “tried hard enough” to get its message to African-American voters, and declared that he would be “competing for all votes” if he runs for president in 2016 in an interview after his meeting with leaders in Ferguson, MO on Friday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Situation Room.”

Paul said, “Everywhere I go as I travel across the United States, I try to hear from people in the community and maybe from some in the community that Republicans haven’t been listening closely enough to. So, we met with the NAACP. We met with black pastors, white pastors, basically community leaders, and I wanted to find out what we can do to make the situation better.”

Paul addressed the prospect that he would run for president in 2016, and stated “we can’t have one party that monopolizes the various ethnic group votes … if I do it, I plan on competing for all votes.”

Paul criticized the Republican Party for failing to engage with the African-American community, saying, “I think in the Republican Party, the biggest mistake we’ve made in the last several decades is we haven’t gone into the African-American community, into the NAACP and say, ‘you know what, we are concerned about what’s going on in your cities and we have plans.’”  Paul further expressed his belief that reaching out to communities like Ferguson was “pretty easy because I believe passionately that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome. I don’t think it’s intentional. But, I think we’ve locked up thousands and thousands of people of color who would be much more productive if we were giving them job training in prison and getting them back out of prison or maybe never getting them in prison to begin with.”

He reported that the meetings went “very well,” and that he believes he began building a bridge between groups like the NAACP and the GOP, stating, “I think that many of the leaders, some in the NAACP, haven’t really thought about talking with a Republican in a while. So it’s good to begin that conversation.” Paul expressed his agreement with the NAACP on issues such as mandatory minimums for drug possession and sale.  He added that there was a “good discussion” regarding his proposal for “economic freedom zones” with lower taxes in the Ferguson and St. Louis area, and that he expressed he was a person who “believes in more people voting, not less,” as evidenced by his support for restoring voting rights to non-violent felons.

He further blasted over-militarization of the police, arguing “we have no use for 20 ton mine-resistant ambush protection vehicles in our cities. It leads to inappropriate behavior. In fact, when FEMA gives out these tanks, they say specifically they’re not supposed to use [them] for riot control…we need to treat the drug problem in a different way. Drugs are a scourge. We need to keep our young people from using them, let young people it’s a bad idea to get involved with drugs, but we need not to be filling up our prisons with these kids we need not to be breaking down doors at 2:00 in the morning looking for drugs, sometimes in the wrong house.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett