Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The GOP’s New Star

Gerard Matthews, Arkansas Times

“My life pretty much changed overnight.”

That’s how native Arkansan Princella Smith describes speaking at the 2004 Republican National Convention at the age of 20.

She got to the stage by winning a speech contest sponsored by MTV called “Stand Up and Holla,” and soon found herself thrust into the national spotlight as a rising star of the GOP.

Looking at her record, it’s no surprise that Smith has climbed the Republican ranks so quickly. Between her junior and senior year at Wynne High School, Smith was elected governor of Girls State, a summer leadership program sponsored by the American Legion. She then took on internships with then-Gov. Mike Huckabee and then-Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller. She worked as the e-campaign director in Maryland Republican Michael Steele’s bid for the Senate in 2006, and now works as the chief spokesperson for American Solutions in Washington, D.C., an organization started by Newt Gingrich.

Like Steele, Smith is both African-American and Republican, an unusual combination. Since most African-Americans are Democrats, Smith said she is constantly asked why she’s a Republican - a question she’s sick of.

“I’m very tired of it, but I always answer it, anyway,” Smith said. “What a lot of people don’t understand is when they ask me that question it’s actually kind of racist. I mean, you look at me, and you immediately think that I think a certain way, but they don’t know anything about my background.”

But Smith, a minister’s daughter who grew up in rural Arkansas, did answer the question: “I’m a firm believer in individualism and small government. I believe that people should be able to choose what kind of schools they put their kids in. I think people should be able to invest in private accounts for Social Security. I believe that taxes should be low, and that national security should be a top priority.”

As the face and voice of American Solutions, Smith found herself back at the national conventions this year, fielding questions from network and cable news programs, National Public Radio, and others.

“Seeing her on television every day is something else,” said John Smith, Princella Smith’s father and minister of the Christian Fellowship Church in Wynne. He said his daughter (he calls her “Prince”) has always been interested in politics.

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