Heard on the Hill

Black Republican Staffer Association Membership Has Doubled

Group’s president Ayshia Connors wants to get more black Republicans in politics

Ayshia Connors, president of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association, works in Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s office. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Will Hurd, Mia Love and Tim Scott are the three black Republicans serving in Congress — Hurd and Love in the House and Scott in the Senate.

The Black Republican Congressional Staff Association wants to increase that number and it is starting at the staff level.

“Black Republicans are few and far between here,” said Ayshia Connors, 24, who is going into her third year as the association’s president. But membership has doubled from about 25 members in the last Congress, she said.

“What we’re doing this year is [focusing] on getting a streamlined approach to have black Republicans intern on the Hill and get based in jobs up here,” she said. “And folks that are already here, preparing them to take on the next position.”

Connors said more senior staffers are joining the group’s ranks, like chiefs of staff and communications directors.

“We’re moving in the right direction, moving towards accomplishing our goals,” she said.

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Connors estimated the association has been around since the 110th Congress, but that’s hard to pinpoint.

“Even if it wasn’t officially a House administration official organization, there’s been an informal one,” she said. “We’ve always been a unified group, always tried to work together.”

“It’s been around for a long time but it’s kind of faded in and out depending on who’s up here,” she added.

Connors is a legislative assistant for freshman Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and handles issues from homeland security to agriculture.

She spent a month before last year’s election doing African-American voter outreach for the Republican National Committee, taking a leave of absence from Georgia GOP Rep. Rob Woodall’s office, where she was a legislative correspondent.

Before that, she was a staff assistant for Love, her Utah home state representative.

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The association’s congressional sponsors are Fitzpatrick, Love and Hurd, and because it’s bicameral, it receives a lot of support from Scott.

A main event for the association is its monthly breakfast series on the Hill. Last year, it hosted breakfasts featuring Rep. Kevin Brady, then-Rep. Tom Price, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Jonathan Burks, Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s chief of staff.

Around the time of the inauguration, the group threw a 500-guest gala to celebrate. Ja’Ron Smith, a former president of the association and onetime legislative assistant for Scott, is now on President Donald Trump’s domestic policy team.

“One of the things we do is try to support each other’s member’s priorities up here,” Connors said. “Of course, it’s helpful now that [Republicans are] spread across the board.”

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The association is focused on informing members about transitioning to the administration, the RNC, and the private sector.

It also hosts policy forums and teams up with Insight America, an outside group working with communities of color on policy initiatives.

Looking ahead, April is Minority Health Month and Connors wants to have policy forums on health issues. She also hopes to have more members in leadership participate in and do events on health care, national security, and the economy.

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