Some black Republican leaders have opened a barrage of criticism at Gloria Toote, the Harlem supporter of Ronald Reagan who was persuaded by the conservative faction of the party to challenge incumbent Mary Crisp as chairman of the Republican National Committee in the Party's January elections.
They suggested Toote has permitted herself to be used as a "Reagan proxy" to further her own ambitions, while the conservatives seek greater influence in Republican national policymaking.
Toote who last year seconded Reagan's Presidential nomination against Gerald Ford responded angrily that the issue would not have arisen were she not black, and she insisted she is "not running as a Reaganite."
A leading black Republican, Owen Peagler, one of the founders of the New York, State Congress of Black Republicans, acknowledged Toote may not be that closer to Reagan's ideology, but that her attempt to unseat Crisp would nevertheless serve the conservatives' purpose.
"I think, perhaps, she has seized an opportunity and a constituency to put her in an advantageous position personally . . . The Reagan people may be committing themselves to something they may not know much about," Peagler said in a telephone interview.
Geraldine Jones, a black New York State Republican committeewoman and city government appointee of former Mayor John V. Lindsay, said of Toote's candidacy, "I think it's divisive and destructive . . . It makes you wonder where she's coming from."
Cleveland Johnson, current president of the Congress of Black Republicans, praised Toote as a "knowledgeable, capable and dedicated Republican," but was critical of her support by the party's Reagan faction.
"I'm distressed that the Reagan forces have seem fit to change (an) office in the Republican National Committee at this time . . . I hope wiser heads will prevail," he said.
Toote said yesterday she was "disturbed" about the inferences her candidacy generated, and said she felt it was unfair for Crisp to suggest she was being used for a "right -wing purge effort."
"Competition is healthy for the party. I see nothing wrong with my aspiring to leadership. If I weren't in a (racial) minority, nobody would pay any attention to this at all," Toote said.
Franklyn Nofriger, a senior Reagan adviser, dismissed suggestions that Toote, who held two sub-Cabinet positions in the Nixon and Ford asministrations, was manipulated by the conservative faction.
"I don't think anyone can get into a race they don't want to get into," NofTooe's candidacy as "a heck of a good ziger said, adding that he regarded idea" that would broaden the base of the party structure.