According to the House GOP campaign arm, there are more female and Hispanic Republicans running for office than ever before.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and top House Republican super PAC strategists spent two elections attempting to entice John James, an Army veteran and sought-after GOP recruit, to run for a Detroit-area congressional seat.
They finally got him last week after pitching James, a two-time Senate candidate, with three rounds of promising polling and emphasizing how the House launched the careers of GOP stars such as South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence. It was a recruitment that had been in the works for years, putting a capstone on a group of Republican House candidates who could both flip the majority and change the composition of the GOP in the coming years.
House Republicans have focused their recruitment efforts on candidates like James, a Black West Point graduate-turned-businessman who has the potential to change the makeup of a party that has been chastised for its disproportionate representation of white men. Every Republican who defeated a Democratic incumbent in a House district in 2020 was a woman or a person of color, and party leaders want to replicate that success on a larger scale.
According to the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, there are more Republican women and Hispanics running for Congress than ever before. According to the committee, more than 253 women and 228 people of color have filed to run as Republicans across the country. A leading Republican candidate is either a woman or a person of color in the most important seats, roughly two dozen open and battleground districts.
It’s a remarkable turnaround from the aftermath of the 2018 election, when there were only 13 Republican women in the House and only one Black Republican. When Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) raised the alarm, she clashed with the NRCC over whether the party should intervene in primary elections to close the gap. There is no such discord as we approach 2022. McCarthy has thrown his weight into races earlier than in the past, with plans to make diversifying the party a priority by opening up donor pools to star candidates and helping them clear primary fields.
McCarthy “wants to demonstrate that our district and I as a candidate are welcomed into the Republican Party, and they’re excited to have a Hispanic, female, Republican, small-business owner bilingual who lives on the border and shares conservative values,” said Monica De La Cruz, a McCarthy-backed candidate running in South Texas. “I believe he has told me that I am a good voice for the Republican Party.”
McCarthy took a special interest in courting James in Michigan, where he lost Senate bids in 2018 and 2020 by less than two points in the most recent election. McCarthy’s main rival was the Republican Governors Association, which was urging James to run for governor again, this time against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Knowing that James had seen polling on the governor’s race, CLF strategists decided to commission their own polling. Throughout 2021, they polled multiple scenarios in an attempt to persuade James that a House seat was preferable to a statewide race. The polls included contests in current districts, potential new districts, and head-to-head battles with three potential Democratic incumbents: Democratic Reps. Andy Levin, Haley Stevens, and Elissa Slotkin.
According to sources close to the minority leader, McCarthy and his team maintained close contact with James throughout the cycle to gauge his interest. They touted him as a future party leader in donor meetings, and they emphasized that a House seat could be a quick launchpad for a political career: Scott, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) all began their careers in the House.
However, recruiters believed James would reach a tipping point in late 2021, when CLF-commissioned polling showed he could prevail in the most likely proposed redistricting plans before Michigan’s independent commission. Finally, the new map outperformed everyone’s expectations: Levin and Stevens chose to compete in different districts.