Tim Scott’s run for president shines a spotlight on black Republicans

About the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Mr. The senator was a leading conservative voice against Trump’s comments, when the president said there were accusers “on both sides.” Mr. Scott’s criticisms later echoed Mr. prompted Trump to call the White House.

After a series of police killings in the summer of 2016, Mr. Scott gave a detailed speech on the Senate floor about racially profiled incidents by law enforcement, including the U.S. Capitol Police. These, he said, “were feeling the pressure when the scales of justice were tipped.”

Now, as he becomes a presidential candidate and the nation’s highest-ranking black Republican, Mr. Scott will have to answer questions about how he and others in his party navigate a tenuous relationship with black voters.

“It might be a little bit of a problem for me down the road,” said Cornelius Huff, the Republican mayor of Inman, S.C., who is black. “You have to have someone in the family that calls it out and straightens those things out.”

At a recent town hall in New Hampshire, Mr. Scott said he saw an opportunity to increase the party’s gains with voters of color, particularly men. Despite winning re-election in 2022 by more than 25 points, Mr. Scott lost or was defeated by a Democratic challenger in nearly all of South Carolina’s majority black counties. He said policy conversations about school choice and economic empowerment could create an opening with people of color, a group polls show have been more open to supporting Republicans in recent election cycles.

“When we go where we’re not invited, we talk to people who don’t vote for us,” Mr. Scott said at the event. “We earn their respect. If we earn their respect long enough, we earn their votes. It’s disrespectful to come 90 days before an election and say, ‘We want your vote.’

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The senator seemed to address a common grievance among black voters, that Democrats often rely on their votes before key elections, court their votes, and then fail to deliver on their policy promises. Yet while some black voters lament Democrats’ empty promises on issues they care about most, they remain the party’s most loyal constituency. More than 90 percent of black voters voted for President Biden in 2020.

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