The man who coordinated Democrat Jesse L. Jackson's surprisingly strong presidential campaign in Virginia last year says he's going to work for Republican Wyatt B. Durrette this year.
"The Democrats have taken the black vote for granted," said George Pope, a former Northern Virginia businessman who now lives in Norfolk. "You don't have all the Jews in the same party. You don't have all the Italians in the same party. Why do all the blacks have to be in the same party?" Pope asked when questioned about his new role for Durrette, the party's gubernatorial candidate.
Durrette officials said Pope is only one of many blacks they are trying to bring into their campaign and is one of a growing number of blacks reassessing their party ties to Democrats. He has done part-time work for Durrette in recent months and expects to be hired as a full-time staffer after the convention.
Durrette, whose decision to hire Pope is not well known at the party convention here, said: "I haven't talked to George at length. I don't know that we'll agree on everything."
Durrette's decision to seek out black votes is not seen all that favorably by some Republicans.
"I'm not sure anything is going to help him" get many black votes, said John D. Marsh, of Prince William County, who said blacks are strongly attached to the Democratic Party. The pollsters have rung the telephones a few too many times for some of the delegates gathering here.
Take Ann Carico of Botecourt County in Southwestern Virginia. She says she's been the recipient of no less than 42 phone calls probing, needling and querying her on her choices for nominees in the hotly contested race for lieutenant governor.
"I was getting hacked off," said Carico, a first time delegate. She said she refused to reveal any of her choices to the persistent callers. "I was getting them every time I would start to cook dinner." Some of the politicians who streamed through the Omni Hotel here might have taken a second look at the billboard for another convention in town -- The Toastmistress Club of America. The list of guest speakers included one person whose topic was: "If I'm in Charge, Why is Everybody Laughing?" -- Tom Sherwood and Molly Moore.