Political observers have spent considerable energy discussing the many legislative seats that Republicans flipped in the Virginia and New Jersey elections this month. But few have remarked that women and minorities led the charge, continuing the recent trend toward a more diverse GOP.
A.C. Cordoza is perhaps the most interesting new Republican. Cordoza, who is Black, was a Democrat who backed President Barack Obama’s campaign only to find his “core values” aligned more with Republicans. As vice chair of the Republican Party in Hampton, Va., Cordoza ran on a typical GOP platform, but with a twist: He does not have a four-year college degree, and he pledged to work to improve options for “career and technical education in our public schools.” He challenged incumbent Democrat Martha Mugler, a longtime fixture in local politics, and defeated her even though she spent more than 12 times as much.
This development continues a trend that started last year. In 2020, every congressional seat that flipped from blue to red was captured by a woman or a minority. Republican women and minorities won open primaries in safely red congressional seats, too.
Nor is this progress limited to Congress. Three Republican governors are women, and Republican women hold significant leadership positions in 21 states.
These trends are likely to accelerate in 2022. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently announced the first list of candidates in the party’s “Young Guns” program, which grooms potential challengers in open or Democratic-held seats. Twelve of the 24 targeted seats have at least one woman or minority candidate running. All three Republican female incumbent governors are running for reelection, and Republican women or minorities are leading gubernatorial candidates in key states such as Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin. Women are also significant contenders in at least four open GOP Senate primaries, and the conservative challenger to Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Kelly Tshibaka, is also female.
The fact is that there has never been a better time to be a woman or minority Republican than today. Primary voters don’t care about a candidate’s gender, race or ethnicity, as Virginia Republicans demonstrated this year by nominating a Black woman for lieutenant governor and a Latino man for state attorney general. So long as a candidate largely shares the party’s mix of conservative and populist beliefs, that person is in the hunt.
It’s long been fashionable to denigrate the GOP as the party of old, White men. The demographic is still overrepresented among party officeholders, but that’s fast changing. It won’t take many more elections for the party to look much more like America — and likely get a lot more Americans’ votes as a result.