When the Republican National Committee ("RNC") needed to demonstrate some diversity on-stage at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Erika Harold was happy to help.
But now when Erika Harold needs a little help, the RNC apparently can't be bothered.
The Illinois Republican Party has denied multiple requests by Erika Harold's campaign for access to the GOP Data Center. Ms. Harold is taking on first-term incumbent Congressman Rodney Davis in the Republican Primary in the 13th U.S. Congressional District.
Keep in mind, Erika Harold's campaign has never asked for special treatment. Not even close. Instead she's simply calling on the Illinois Republican Party to perform one of its most basic jobs, and to help ensure a level playing field in a Republican primary. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to deny Ms. Harold access to a valuable campaign resource that is supposed to be available to all Republican candidates.
I contacted the RNC for comment about the Illinois Republican Party's denial of Ms. Harold's requests since the GOP Data Center is in fact RNC property. The RNC merely relies on the 50 state parties to put the tool into use in the field.
RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams responded, "State parties determine access to Data Center."
So in other words, not only is the RNC abandoning an outstanding Republican woman, it is in fact abandoning its own rules, which dictate the national party staying neutral in all contested primaries. By washing its hands of responsibility over what happens with its own property, the RNC is clearly taking a position on the side of first-term incumbent Rodney Davis. It's also worth remembering that Davis has never been chosen by Republican voters in a primary election. Instead he was slated for the November ballot in May of 2012 by a committee composed of 14 mid-level party officials after long time Congressman Tim Johnson announced his retirement shortly after last year's March primary.
One might assume the RNC would be a little smarter on this matter, especially since even RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was forced to weigh in back in June after a local party official leveled an incredibly nasty racist/sexist attack on Ms. Harold.
Priebus also surely doesn't agree with some Illinois GOP bosses fretting over Erika Harold's challenge to an incumbent Republican. Priebus after all is only RNC chair today because he challenged and prevailed against incumbent RNC Chair Micheal Steele back in January 2011. And unlike Ms. Harold, who is running nothing but a highly professional, above-board campaign, Priebus aggressively undermined Steele from within. At the time, Priebus was not only a member of the RNC -- he also served as Steele's general counsel.
If you didn't know better, you might easily get the impression the RNC is deliberately trying to sink our party's favorability rating below its current record-low level.
It's disappointing the RNC won't lift a finger for a phenomenal candidate who if elected next year would become the first black female Republican Congressman in American history. (There have been black male Republicans in Congress, but never a black woman on the GOP side.)
The good news is that at least everyone now knows there's no reason to waste time taking the RNC's pretend game of "minority outreach" seriously in the future.
It's clear that Reince Priebus and the RNC desperately want minority candidates like Erika Harold on the GOP bus. They're just supposed to stay in the back of the bus until the bosses say otherwise.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.