A.R. Bernard, and the market for a black Republican mayoral candidate in 2013
"How does a Republican win for mayor? How does a black Republican run and win, for mayor?"
That was New York 1 News host Errol Louis' question to Rev. A.R. Bernard last night, as the pastor of the Brooklyn-based mega-church spoke on television for the first time about his potential mayoral bid.
"Fine, I'm a Republican," Bernard said, before talking about leadership and the need to reach out beyond just Republican voters in New York.
When asked, Bernard said he would not personally perform a same-sex marriage ceremony if he were elected mayor.
Bernard is considering his run at a time when the Republican is actively looking for more non-white candidates for office: The Manhattan Republican County Chairman, Dan Isaacs, told me yesterday Republicans can no longer afford to be seen as the party of "rich white guys."
Isaacs said the mayor's race was a chance to show "the world" who the Republican Party really is.
Reaching out to minorities—Latinos in particular—is part of the stated mayoral rationale of Adolfo Carrion Jr., who is also planning to run for mayor as a Republican.
There's not much precedent in New York City for black or Latino candidates enjoying success on the Republican line.
Herman Badillo ran several times for mayor on the Republican Party line, but never won. Longtime state senator Olga Mendez lost her first bid for re-election after she changed her party registration from Democratic to Republican.
Would Bernard bring significant numbers of black voters to the Republican Party, if he somehow did get the nomination over the more buzzed-about Joe Lhota, better-funded John Catsimatidis or better-established Carrion?
City Councilwoman Inez Dickens of Harlem, a Democrat, told me it was "not likely."
Bill Thompson, the former City Comptroller and the only black mayoral candidate in the Democratic primary, said it was too early to speculate on Bernard's candidacy.
Voter-demographics expert Jerry Skurnik estimated there are about 40,000 black voters registered in the Republican Party in New York City, compared to about 900,000 black voters enrolled in the Democratic Party.
Democratic consultant Jef Pollock estimated there were about 30,000 black Republican voters, compared to more than a million black Democratic voters in the city.