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November 18 2019

Champion Women Profile: Corrin Rankin

by Charlotte Hays

 

When former Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington was wrestling with whether to leave the Democratic Party and sign up as a Republican, one of the people from whom he sought for advice was Corrin Rankin.  She’d been there, done that. 

She knew that being a black Republican can be hard. Rankin, founder and president of Legacy Republicans Alliance (LRA), which aims to expand the GOP’s black membership, could sympathize with Washington’s dilemma. After all, it was just a high-profile edition of the struggle she had faced earlier. 

In 2008 Rankin voted for President Barack Obama, but shortly afterwards she began re-evaluating certain Democratic policies, especially with regard to how they affected black Americans. She believed that high taxes and regulations were harming businesses, including her own. Rankin owed a bail bond agency in Redwood, Ca. She was an active, second generation bail bondsman—or was before the state of California enacted a ban on the industry.

“I started doing some research,” Rankin, 45, recalls. “I can’t for the life of me remember why, but I decided to read the mission statements and platforms of both major parties. When I read the Republican one, I thought ‘Oh, my God, I think I am a Republican.’ I clicked off my computer. I thought there was no way that could be true.”

After around six months of being in denial, Rankin “accepted” that she was a Republican. “When Isaiah was going through this, I had the opportunity to be a sounding board and to hear him out,” she says. “When I went through it, I didn’t have anybody. I couldn’t tell Isaiah what to think or say, because it’s his journey. I call it a journey because that is what it felt like to me, but it was a pleasure to be there for somebody who was going through something I had gone through alone.” 

“I started doing some research,” Rankin, 45, recalls. “I can’t for the life of me remember why, but I decided to read the mission statements and platforms of both major parties. When I read the Republican one, I thought ‘Oh, my God, I think I am a Republican.’ I clicked off my computer. I thought there was no way that could be true.”

Washington has since made headlines coming out as a Republican and a Trump supporter. Rankin is also a Trump supporter. She was originally drawn to Jeb Bush but switched because she liked Trump’s directness, his disrupter aura, and his business roots. She was a Trump delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

For Rankin, President Trump’s background in business was the deciding factor. “Even though I have this teeny little business in the world and he’s this great conglomerate, I could still relate to that mindset in some very basic ways,” she told an interviewer two years ago. 

Rankin grew up in and around Redwood City, California. Her father, James Rankin, worked for a bail bond company before founding his own bail bond business. Corrin says that her father was the first black businessman in San Mateo County. Her mother Shirley Olivier was from Louisiana. She came to California to visit a relative at the age of nineteen. “She met my father and never went back,” Corrin says.  “She lived here in California and she succeeded. She did a lot better here in California than she probably would have done in Louisiana.” Corrin’s mother started out as a secretary at Johnson & Johnson and moved up to a senior position in the payroll department.  

Corrin’s parents modeled work ethic and lived a classic American Dream.  “He worked really, really hard and had a successful business and that’s what I saw growing up.  I saw my father work extremely hard.  I saw my mother work extremely hard.  My mother went from being a secretary at Johnson and Johnson to leading their accounting department.”

The family prospered. Corrin recalls, “My father started doing so well in his business and we moved to Menlo Park, where I went to a Catholic school. Menlo Park, it's interesting story. They had red lining back then. Menlo Park was very segregated. There's the white side.  There's the black side, right?  And we lived on the white side.  So, my father was able to break past the red lining in the neighborhood, through the realtor that he had at the time. I always tell my father that I don’t know how he did it. When I look at his success story, beating redlining, things like that, I'm really grateful to him. But I don’t want his success story to be an anomaly.  That’s not enough. We want there to be lots of success stories in the black community.”

Rankin knew that being a black Republican could be a challenge. “When Isaiah [Washington] was going through this, I had the opportunity to be a sounding board and to hear him out,” Corrin says. “When I went through it, I didn’t have anybody. I couldn’t tell Isaiah what to think or say, because it’s his journey. I call it a journey because that is what it felt like to me.”  

Although the family was financially successful, the kids weren’t spoiled. “When I was in high school, my father used to make me work at his bail bond business during summer vacation,” Corrin recalls. She didn’t especially like working there. “He and my mom would say ‘Well, do you want new school clothes?’ I’d say, ‘Well, of course’ and they’d say, ‘Okay, you have to work so you can earn money to buy your own clothes.’ And you wonder why I’m a Republican?”

Corrin’s own success story took a circuitous route, but eventually circled back to her roots when she established her own successful bail bond agency. But it took a while. First she attended trade school and obtained a certificate. She gravitated towards the dot.com industry, working as a technical support engineer at both Hotmail and [email protected] Perhaps preparing for the give and take of politics, she fielded customer complaints about technical difficulties and worked with statistics, tracking, and community forums. While it lasted, “It was great. I really enjoyed the work. I absolutely saw myself working in the dot com industry for my whole life, and I was going to be doing all these great things.  And then dot com boom burst.” 

It was during this time that Rankin married and had her first daughter at the age of twenty; a second daughter followed three years later, and she ultimately divorced.

After five years in tech world, Rankin rejoined her father in the bail bond industry. This time she loved the work and was fascinated by the stories her clients told. When James Rankin retired in 2008, Corrin became head of Out Now Bail Bonds. The agency was thriving under her leadership, and Corrin was chair of the Board for California Bail Agents Association. However, in 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation abolishing California’s bail bond business. It took effect last October. Instead of putting up bail money, people awaiting trial have judges decide if they should be held or released. The California Bail Agents Association has filed a referendum to the law that will be on the ballot in 2020 and that would let voters decide the issue.  

With the bail bond industry dwindling, Rankin now works as a consultant in contracts and property management and real estate. She has belonged to a host of civic and political organizations from the Rotary Club to the board of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Activity League for Youth Diversion; she was vice chair of the San Mateo County Republican Party. In 2013, Rankin made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the city council in Redwood City. She received a newsworthy number of endorsements, especially from business owners. The loss didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for political involvement.

Rankin and a group of other black conservatives started Legacy Republicans Alliance this year. “We formed LRA earlier this year because, in California, we saw that there is a void of black leadership within our State Party and we aimed to fill the void and also get a seat at the table,” she says. Rankin serves as president. Legacy Republicans Alliance is dedicated not only to recruiting more black Republicans but it also has a PAC that will put its resources towards electing black Republicans to political office. LRA already has endorsed Joe Collins, a Navy veteran and longshot challenger to Rep. Maxine Waters in California’s 43rd district; Tamika Hamilton, an Air Force veteran who’s taking on Rep. John Garamendi, 3rd district; and Aja Smith, another Air Force veteran, who is taking on Rep. Mark Takano, 41st district. 

LRA has its work cut out for it: according to a study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, just 6% of the state’s likely Republican voters are black. So far, the state GOP has not contributed to LRA. Rankin says, “The party has had this mindset—well, they vote Democratic, so let’s just leave them alone. Why? Why would you do that?  Let's go share our story.  Let's give them an option.”

“The black community,” she continues, “is ready for a change, and this is our time. We need to go into our communities and tell them how Republican values and policies can be beneficial. Black people are, by and large, naturally conservative. A lot of black people are church going and black people have strong family values.”

Rankin is heartened by the “hidden Republicans,” people who approach her after a speech and say, “I believe that, too” but aren’t quite ready to say it publicly yet. The big impediment to admitting to being a black Republican: the racist smear. “When I was still a Democrat,” Rankin admits, “I thought George Bush was the biggest racist in America.  I look back on it now, and I wonder what exactly did he do that would qualify him to be a racist?  I can’t answer that question. But I heard it repeated constantly, and it was effective.”

Despite the racist slander, however, Rankin detects that black people are becoming more receptive to Republican arguments. She cites a counterintuitive reason: Donald Trump. 

Historically low black unemployment and prison reform under the Trump administration can’t be ignored, Rankin says. “Racist people don’t create opportunity zones in underserved communities, as the President has done,” she says. “That’s not what racist people do.  So, President Trump’s actions are speaking louder than the words of the Democrats. He’s already done more for the black community than Barack Obama. Instead of going on TV and saying ‘Hey, guess what, I’m not a racist,’ President Trump doesn’t bother to have that conversation, but he shows it in his actions. Kim Kardashian can come and tell him a lady is in prison and should not be in prison, and he says, ‘Oh, sure, that’s right.  She was wronged. Let’s get her back home with her family.’ And when we see him do that, it resonates with us because Barack Obama didn’t do it.”

Rankin went so far as to defend President Trump’s blasting the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Baltimore district as a “rodent and rat-infested mess,” where “no human being would want to live.” The President was denounced as a racist. Counters Rankin, “Democrats were like, ‘Oh, he's saying these racist things.’ No, he's not racist.  He's saying these things because he thinks that people should have clean streets. He thinks black people should live in safe neighborhoods.  That's racist?  I don't think so.”

Blue state policies in California are not working for the black community, Rankin says. “I think that our opportunity here in California is so ripe right now because our taxes are high – we’re paying almost $6 a gallon for gas. People can’t afford to buy a house in communities of their choosing.  Our homeless population is out of control.  We’ve literally got the bubonic plague starting to resurface in Los Angeles.”

Rankin went so far as to defend President Trump’s blasting the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Baltimore district as a “rodent and rat-infested mess.” Says Rankin, “Democrats were like, ‘Oh, he's saying these racist things.’ No, he's not racist.  He's saying these things because he thinks that people should have clean streets. He thinks black people should live in safe neighborhoods.  That's racist?  I don't think so.”

“The black community,” she continues, “is ready for a change, and this is our time. We need to go into our communities and tell them how Republican values and policies can be beneficial. Black people are, by and large, naturally conservative. A lot of black people are church going and black people have strong family values.”

Rankin is confident that, if the pitch is made, a lot more black Americans can be encouraged to join on The Journey that she and Isaiah Washington and others already have made. “We know that there’s no quick fix,” she admits.  “It’s going to have to be meetings and handshakes, a lot of conversations with influencers in the various communities. Are we going to turn it around?  By this time next year?  No, it won’t be completely turned around, but I can promise you that we will have made some headway,” 

With this determined and compelling woman making the case, we believe that’s a promise on which she will make good.  





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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