Posted on May 20, 2020

Emulating Democrats, G.O.P. Ties House Hopes to Diverse Recruits

Catie Edmonson, New York Times, May 19, 2020

When Representative Mike Garcia of California was sworn in as a member of Congress on Tuesday, it marked more than just the addition of another Republican to the ranks of the minority party in the House.

For Republicans, the ascent of Mr. Garcia — a former fighter pilot, Iraq combat veteran and the son of a Mexican immigrant who snatched a Democratic-held seat in a special election in California last week — also reflected a glimmer of hope for their long-shot strategy to claw their way back from devastating losses in 2018.


Now as they try to pivot to offense, House Republicans are taking a cue from the Democratic recruiting playbook, eschewing the kind of candidates they turned to in decades past — white, male, often veterans of local or state politics — in favor of novices with diverse backgrounds in competitive races across the country.

It is a tacit acknowledgment that the political coalition of voters that President Trump has relied on — overwhelmingly white, male and less educated — is not enough to carry his Republican allies in Congress to electoral victories, and that they must expand beyond that base to reclaim a majority.

“We as a party learned the hard way that in today’s world we need candidates other than boring old white people,” said Corry Bliss, a top Republican strategist who helped lead the party’s failed 2018 effort to protect the House. “We need candidates with compelling biographies, compelling messaging, and candidates that reflect the voters who offer a better perspective of the issues of the day.”

For House Republicans, who face steep odds of taking control of the chamber, the effort is urgent. Their party’s popularity has sagged with suburbanites, especially women, and they are suffering from a glaring diversity problem. Two of the 13 House Republican women are retiring this year, along with Representative Will Hurd of Texas, the party’s sole black House member. In 2018, just one new Republican woman was elected to the House. Mr. Garcia’s swearing in brought the number of House Republicans of color to 11, nudging it to 6 percent of their conference. (Forty-five percent of House Democrats are racial minorities, according to data compiled by the chamber.)

{snip} In 421 districts across the nation, nearly 250 veterans and over 180 minorities have filed to run as Republicans, according to the House Republican campaign arm’s internal tracking, as well as a record number of women.


“There are 43 seats more favorable to Republicans than the seat Mike Garcia just won by 10 points,” said Chris Pack, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm. “If our diverse slate of candidates can win in California, we can and will win across the country.”


It is unclear whether Mr. Garcia’s victory can be replicated in tough districts across the nation in November, divorced from the unique circumstances at play in his special election. The seat opened after Representative Katie Hill, a Democrat, resigned under a cloud of scandal, forcing a midyear contest with lower turnout than in general elections. {snip}


Whatever the difficulties, some Republicans privately concede that given their track record of cultivating diverse candidates, they have nowhere to go but up.

“Our recruits are undeniably better — significantly better — than they were last cycle,” said Mr. Bliss, the strategist. “As a party, we’re taking a major step in the right direction.”