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RNC To Add Black Staff For Homestretch Amid Outreach Concerns

The Republican Party is going to add Ayshia Connors, a Capitol Hill aide to Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia. But privately, RNC staff working on black engagement are pushing for the party to go beyond staffing — and make a ground push in the final weeks of the election.

Posted on October 6, 2016, at 4:08 p.m. ET

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee will announce it’s adding Ayshia Connors as a deputy director of national engagement, multiple sources confirm to BuzzFeed News.

Connors is expected to take a leave of absence from Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall’s office and begin at the RNC next Tuesday. She will report to Ashley Bell, a third source confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

While Connors did not immediately return a message seeking comment, Telly Lovelace, the RNC's national director for urban media and black field engagement, said, “Under Chairman Priebus' leadership, the RNC remains committed to engaging the African American community. We are adding additional support staff in our final push to Election Day.”

Connors would be the latest addition to the RNC staff this cycle staffers to bolster black outreach, but the specific role she'll play in helping spread the party’s message in the final weeks of the election is unclear. As president of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association, Connors is well-known on Capitol Hill and is seen as a future leader with senior black Republican operatives. She previously worked for Rep. Mia Love of Utah.

But the move is also sure to further perplex some black Republicans who still, even at this late point in the election, want to see the party make serious inroads to increase the black vote. While many black Republicans see the hires of young up-and-coming conservatives like Connors as a positive step, many are frustrated that they remain mostly in the dark about about the strategic plans the staffers have worked over the course of the election that's polarized black Republican leaders.

In seven interviews black Republican sources, a pall of frustration hangs over the election for wondering how the party plans to engage with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); how, specifically, the party plans to launch a ground operation to help with GOTV efforts; and how the much ballyhooed advisory councils set up in battlegrounds will be activated leading up to the election.

The latter of these efforts has been centerpiece of the RNC’s efforts in recent weeks. RNC staff has set up the advisory councils in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. They're designed to help the RNC cater a specific message to voters, recruit volunteers and activists and execute a ground strategy in black communities. One staffer described the black ground game as “ready to go,” but expressed frustration about a lack of financial commitment.

The move also comes as the RNC and Donald Trump’s campaign for president prepare a coordinated effort to court black voters. As the RNC added staff, some black aides were quietly dubious of the Trump’s campaign black outreach strategy — concerns two sources say have been alleviated. “In order for this to work it was clear that everybody had to do their part, and I think it’s happening,” a party source said.

Internally, RNC staffers are lobbying for more activity in black media. The media column Journal-isms on Wednesday reported that Donna Brazile, the interim DNC chair, had been instrumental in the party spending $400,000 in ads with the National Newspaper Publishers Association. The Democrats have also gone on the air in battlegrounds with an ad featuring Michelle Obama on nationally syndicated black radio.

The DNC declined to disclose the amount it was spending in black media, but said it was in the seven figures.

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