Local NAACP courts controversy 

A move by the Colorado Springs branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has stirred some political circles.

The group recently sent an email to supporters announcing a "Common Core Primer" at its Aug. 23 meeting, featuring speakers Michael Schlierf, a state House District 18 candidate, and Paul Lundeen, president of the Colorado State Board of Education and sole candidate for state House District 19. Both are Republicans.

That's caused some grumbling. The local NAACP is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, and its parent organization is a 501(c)(3). The nonprofit status, along with NAACP guidelines, dictate that the group cannot endorse candidates or political parties.

Henry Allen, president of the chapter and an active local Republican, says the chapter isn't endorsing anyone. The event, he says, wasn't a campaign stop, just a discussion on an education issue. And any candidate is welcome to speak on issues at the NAACP's meetings, Allen says. "All they have to do is call the office and say, 'I would like to get on your program and speak.'"

Allen said there was no time for Schlierf's Democratic opponent, incumbent Rep. Pete Lee, to speak at the Aug. 23 meeting. (Allen wasn't at the meeting because he attended Michael Brown's funeral in Missouri.)

That didn't sit well with Lee, a longtime member of the NAACP who serves on the local chapter's executive committee. He says he wasn't even aware of the speakers until a few days before the meeting. Asked if he would like to speak at an NAACP meeting, Lee said he didn't feel it was appropriate for political candidates to be announced speakers at such meetings.

"One of the hallmarks of the NAACP is non-partisanship, and not becoming supportive or advocating on the part of one candidate or another, or one party or another," he said.

Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the Colorado/Montana/Wyoming NAACP State Conference and an active Democrat, was equally displeased, saying the actions of local chapters can impact the national organization's nonprofit status. Lytle says that if any political candidate is given a chance to speak at an NAACP event, the opposing major-party candidate should be offered equal time.

"I would hope, as the state conference president, that local branch leadership would have already reached out to Rep. Lee," she said ahead of the meeting. "And I will make it my business to ask that question."

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