Bloomberg — Republicans are fielding a more racially diverse array of candidates in the midterms, hoping to make gains among voters of color and counter criticism their party appeals only to White people.
Thirty Hispanic and 24 Black Republicans are on ballots for House races, part of an even larger group of nearly 200 Black and Latino Republicans who ran in primaries — both record figures, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Another five Black or Hispanic GOP candidates are running for Senate seats.
How far those candidates move the needle is unclear. The GOP has struggled to win Black voters, but has seen recent success with Latinos, including flipping a majority-Hispanic Texas seat in a special election earlier this year.
GOP officials said they are capitalizing on nuances among Latinos that Democrats ignore — voters who trace their ancestry to different countries, families going back generations in the US, and socially conservative Hispanics.
“We’re not a monolithic community,” said Republican National Committee Deputy Press Secretary Nicole Morales.
The attempt to boost non-White candidates, though, contrasts with Donald Trump’s appeals to White voters. Trump demonized undocumented immigrants and the Black Lives Matter movement and counts White supremacists among his base. The former president, still his party’s standard-bearer, has recently embraced the QAnon movement, which revolves around a bizarre and baseless conspiracy theory that Trump’s political opponents are Satanists and pedophiles.
Black and Latino Democrats still far outnumber their Republican peers in Congress. There are currently just two Black and 13 Latino Republicans in the House, compared to 56 and 33 Black and Latino Democrats, respectively. There are just three Black senators, one of whom — Tim Scott of South Carolina — is Republican. Out of six Latino senators, two are Republicans.
And Democrats have nearly triple the number of Black and Latino House nominees than Republicans, according to data provided by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Polls show that most Latinos and an overwhelming majority of Black voters prefer Democrats, and the party’s leaders say Republicans remain at odds with voters of color on issues like immigration and voting rights.
Still, election experts say any GOP gains could sway midterm races historically marked by low turnout.
“If I’m a Republican strategist, I’m not looking to get a massive increase in Latino and Black support. I just need to cut in a little bit,” said Chryl Laird, a University of Maryland professor of government and politics.
Democrats realized the danger in June after losing a long-held Texas seat to Republican Mayra Flores.
Flores showed Republicans can target Latino communities “without having to change their rhetoric relative to what they’re telling White Republicans,” said Bernard Fraga, an Emory University political science professor.
Some Democrats blamed low turnout in the election, but others warned the party needs better Hispanic outreach as that electorate grows. The Census Bureau estimates that in Texas, the Latino population is larger than the non-Hispanic White population.
An NBC News/Telemundo poll in September found 54% of Latinos prefer a Democratic Congress to 33% for Republicans, a 21-point edge — down from 26 points in 2020.
Monica De La Cruz, running in a majority-Hispanic Texas district, wants to replicate Flores’s feat.
Touting a Trump endorsement, De La Cruz told Bloomberg News the GOP is a “natural political home” for Latinos. “Contrary to liberal myths, we don’t like open borders,” she said.
Democrats were surprised tougher rhetoric on immigration was applauded by some Latinos, Fraga said. A New York Times/Siena College poll in September found 46% of Hispanics agreed with Democrats on illegal immigration and 37% with Republicans.
Michael Diaz, a Houston-area voter backing Republicans, says the border is the leading issue for Texas Hispanics. “It’s not just illegal immigrants,” said Diaz, citing concerns about drug trafficking.
But Trey Martinez, a South Texas attorney, says border fears are sensationalized. Martinez, who prefers moderate Democrats, feels “100% safe” in his neighborhood.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa acknowledged Republican views on abortion and immigration appealed to some Latinos, but he doesn’t see Hispanics flocking to the GOP. He said Republicans were investing more in South Texas after Trump’s better-than-expected performance there.
“It’s not that something that they stand for is something that resonates with Hispanics,” he said. “The only thing that I worry about is the money.”
“We’re working the Latino community just as hard,” he added.
While De La Cruz’s conservative views play well in Texas, Latino Republicans are tailoring their message in suburban seats.
In a House race on Long Island, George Santos, the son of Brazilian immigrants, embraces talking points popular with the GOP base such as opposition to critical race theory, as well as orthodox Republican views on spending and taxes.
“My campaign promises are simple. I will be a fiscal hawk,” said Santos, a former Wall Street financier. He added that “Trump did more for Blacks and Latinos than any other president,’’ a disputable claim the former president is fond of making himself.
Polls show the GOP’s economic message making headway with Latinos. The NYT/Siena poll found 41% of Latino voters agreed with Republicans on economic issues, with 43% siding with Democrats.
On abortion, an Axios/Ipsos Latino Poll found that half of Latinos believe the procedure should be legal, while just a quarter are opposed. But the poll discovered a generational divide; while about 60% of second- and third-generation Latinos support abortion rights, only 41% of first-generation Latinos said the procedure should be legal.
Lori Chavez-DeRemer, whose father is Mexican, distanced herself from fellow Republicans seeking a national abortion ban, calling it a “non-starter.”
Chavez-DeRemer, running in Oregon for the House, agreed with overturning Roe and leaving the matter to states. But she called Oregon laws with no limit on how late abortions can be performed “extreme.”
Unlike the headway they are making with Latinos, Republicans face a tougher path with Black voters. The New York Times/Siena College poll found 11% of Black voters were likely to vote Republican in their district, compared with 32% of Hispanics.
In Georgia, Black Republican Herschel Walker is seeking to unseat a sitting Black Democrat, Senator Raphael Warnock, in a tight race.
Kevin Harris, chief of staff for Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign in Georgia, called it a “test case” on whether a Black candidate is enough for Republicans to draw non-White voters.
“Black voters will look beyond his race and they will see that while he may be the same race as me, this is not a person who is necessarily equipped to be the best advocate for me,” Harris predicted.
On Monday a report in the Daily Beast that Walker, who has said he supports a national abortion ban, paid for a girlfriend’s abortion 13 years ago rocked the Georgia Senate race. After the report, Walker’s adult son Christian Walker accused him of domestic violence in a series of tweets. Walker emphatically denied the report in a statement late Monday.A September Marist Poll found Warnock leading Black voters 80% to 10%. “Black Georgians have a clear choice about who is ready to represent them, and they deserve better than Herschel Walker,” said Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager.
Walker’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Dan Richardson, a Black Atlanta-area voter who mostly backs Republicans, said he is still weighing Walker. He wants to hear more about the candidate’s positions on crime and the economy in a debate.
Erikka Williams, a Black Warnock supporter, worries a lack of enthusiasm could lower Black Democratic turnout. “Democrats, in general, have had a messaging problem,” she said.
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