WASHINGTON — After meeting with Republican presidential candidate [crscore]Rand Paul[/crscore] on Wednesday, one black pastor who has traditionally supported Democrats suggested the African-American community could get behind a Republican like the Kentucky senator in the presidential race.
“I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I came to the meeting because the senator has long since been a champion for the African-American community with issues that are near and dear to our heart,” Pastor Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore told reporters.
“I think that this election cycle is going to be transitional for the African-American electorate,” Bryant added. “That we will not necessarily vote along traditional party lines, around a personality, but around policy. And a lot of the policies that Sen. Rand represents align with a lot of the pain and the concern within the African-American community.”
Bryant said he discussed the situation in Baltimore — the protests over the death of Freddie Gray this year — with Paul and “raised with the senator” how “a lot of the young people in Black Lives Matter are looking to see if the criminal justice system actually works.”
Paul’s campaign organized a meeting with the Kentucky senator and more than a dozen mostly black pastors and community leaders at a carriage house on Capitol Hill.
“These kind of injustices — you can understand why people are unhappy,” Paul said after the meeting. “There’s no excuse for violence or things like that. But you can see why people are protesting and marching in the streets. When you see Eric Garner’s death in New York, or you see what happened to Kalief Browder in New York.”
“For some of us who never have seen sort of the unfair side of the justice system, there’s some who have never seen justice or fairness,” Paul added. “They think the whole system is rigged, and there’s a lot of evidence when you look at the war on drugs, and you look at the people who are serving all the time, they are disproportionally black or brown and all poor. And that we have two sets of justice in our country — for those that have means and those that don’t.”
Paul said they talked about criminal justice, economic opportunity and education. “One of the things I’ve been interested in is seeing if there’s a way we can do welfare reform so it doesn’t discourage marriage,” he said. “I think it was kind of an ideas session.”
Asked by The Daily Caller, Paul said the recent debate over guns did not come up.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump also recently met with black pastors, but those at the Paul event said they did not participate in that gathering.