Sen. Rand Paul is reaching out to black voters as he gears up for a probable presidential run in 2016.
The Kentucky Republican is promoting six bills aimed at helping black Americans, ranging from the criminal justice system to voting rights, according to The Hill
He has joined forces with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, the only black Democrat in the Senate, to bring out the Redeem Act, which would help young blacks by expunging the records of non-violent offenders who committed crimes when they were under 15.
Paul has also teamed with Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on legislation that would give judges more leeway in their sentencing of people convicted of federal crimes.
The libertarian-leaning politician is supporting another measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, which centers on allowing nonviolent ex-felons to have voting rights.
He's also backing a bill called the Reset Act, which would classify some drug crimes as misdemeanors while abolishing the sentencing inconsistencies between cocaine and crack-related offenses, The Hill said.
Paul threw his support behind the Redeem Act after Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay, who represents Ferguson, Missouri, asked him to get involved in the aftermath of riots in the town that followed the killing on an unarmed young black man by a white police officer.
Clay told The Hill that the U.S. justice system is on trial and black voters "want to hear from candidates who can address the issue of having one set of law for all Americans, in other words, equal justice."
Clay, who hopes to work with Paul on legislation to limit property seizures from people suspected of committing crimes, said the senator could win over black voters in 2016 if he ended up running against Hillary Clinton for the presidency.
"At this point, the African-American electorate is looking at all the potential candidates and making a decision based on who works on their behalf," he said. "Whoever advocates that is going to get African-American votes."
The Hill, citing Gallup, noted that Republicans have fared poorly among blacks in the past four presidential elections, with the GOP nominee receiving only 5 percent, 1 percent, 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of the black vote.
Paul has stepped up his efforts to reach out to the black community in the past year, such as helping to open a Republican National Committee office in Detroit geared specifically to minority voters.
He's also delivered speeches at the Urban League in Cincinnati and at Howard University.
Last week, he attended a forum on ways to help urban America, alongside two black Republicans, former Reps. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma and Artur Davis of Alabama.
But Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it was hard "for people to take it seriously," while adding that Paul should instead be making strides on changing his party's ongoing attempts to cut social programs.
"Whether it's fair to him or not, he gets painted with a very broad brush," Cummings told The Hill. "That's his biggest problem. He's part of a party that is not seen as supportive of African-Americans and their children."
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