Leadership & Governance

Giuliani Picks Up Support of Leading Affirmative-Action Critics

January 08, 2008

Rudolph W. Giuliani’s campaign yesterday released a list of the delegate candidates representing him in California’s Republican primary. It includes Ward Connerly, who helped lead the successful campaigns to limit affirmative action in California, Michigan, and Washington and is working to put similar measures before voters in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma this November.

Mr. Connerly is hardly the only prominent critic of affirmative action lending his support to the former New York mayor. The panel that Mr. Giuliani has assembled to advise him on education-policy matters includes Clint Bolick, who has frequently spoken out against affirmative-action preferences in his former position as vice president of the Institute for Justice and current position as director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Litigation; Brian W. Jones, who has challenged such preferences in his past positions as the Education Department’s general counsel under President Bush and president of the Center for New Black Leadership; and Gerald A. Reynolds, who has taken similar stands in his current post as chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and in past stints as assistant secretary of education for civil rights under President Bush, president of the Center for New Black Leadership, and legal analyst for the Center for Equal Opportunity.

Mr. Giuliani has generally been critical of affirmative action himself, though his positions on the matter have varied. Soon after becoming the Big Apple’s mayor in 1994, he eliminated a set-aside program that gave businesses owned by minority members or women an edge in obtaining city contracts, and said race and gender should play no role in the city’s hiring and contracting decisions. He also abolished a personnel-department bureau devoted to equal-employment opportunity and eliminated several offices devoted to specific racial or ethnic groups.

Two years later, however, Mr. Giuliani expressed opposition to California’s Proposition 209, the Connerly-backed measure banning public colleges and other state agencies there from granting affirmative-action preferences. He said the measure threatened programs that remained necessary to assist the victims of past discrimination.

In an interview today, Mr. Connerly was forgiving of Mr. Giuliani’s past opposition to Proposition 209, noting that “there were very few elected officials who were willing to brave the elements and speak out against preferences” back in 1996, when the California measure went before voters. Although Mr. Giuliani’s position on affirmative action remains somewhat different from his own, “on the fundamental question of whether anyone should get a preference or be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, we are in accord,” Mr. Connerly said.

Mr. Connerly said he remains frustrated with many Democrats for supporting affirmative-action preferences and many Republicans for not taking a strong stand against such policies, but he believes many members of the GOP are becoming more willing to openly take his side in the debate.

He said his cause has been helped by Barack Obama’s success in predominantly white Iowa. “It is hard in the face of that to say America is at its core a racist nation,” he said.