More black Republicans hope to join Scott, Donald and Burgess in Congress

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When Reps. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Burgess Owens (R-Utah) were elected to the House in 2020, they helped write history by pushing the number of black Republicans in Washington to an all-time high. since 1891: three.

That record could be broken this year, depending on the results of more than two dozen congressional races in which black Republicans are on the November ballot.

As primary election season neared, the Republican National Congressional Committee boasted that more than 80 black Republicans were running to represent Americans in Washington. Although that number fell to 28 by the end of the nominating season, GOP leaders are hoping that Election Day could be the start of a growing trend.

Republican leaders say dissatisfaction with President Biden‘s policies, combined with an electorate that says the Democratic Party is going too far to the left, will lead voters to back more black Republicans this fall. The party has seen an uptick in support among black voters over the past two election cycles and officials hope that will continue as more black Americans — candidates and voters — seek an alternative to the Democratic Party.

Donalds is thrilled that black Republicans are throwing their names in the races this election cycle.

“What you see with these black candidates is that we understand public policy, we understand the Constitution, we support the rule of law, we support limited government,” he said. “And I think what you see in some of these areas is that we’re the top contender in the area as well.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee counted 81 black Americans running as Republicans in 72 congressional primary precincts this year, up from 27 candidates in the 2020 election cycle. Candidates for next month’s election include 22 men and six women. Some are first-time candidates, while many have run for office several times, but without success. Very few have political experience in local and state offices, but many have military experience. And they are fleeing from states as varied as California, Missouri, Florida and New Jersey.

In addition to the House candidates, three black Republicans are vying for Senate seats. Tim Scott of South Carolina is widely favored for re-election. In Georgia, college football star Herschel Walker is challenging Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, and conservative commentator Joe Pinion in New York is running against Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.).

Republicans are especially hopeful about House candidate Wesley Hunt, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, who won the GOP primary in a new conservative-leaning district outside of Houston and leads his Democratic opponent. in the polls. The lifelong Republican said voters — including blacks and Latinos — are drawn to his campaign out of frustration with Democrats and a desire to have their voices heard.

“Politically, a lot of people aren’t happy or happy with what we’ve seen in the last 20 months since the Biden administration began,” he said.

“And you see black conservatives no longer hiding from what we traditionally do and how we’re supposed to vote and stand up and say, ‘It’s okay to be black and conservative,'” Hunt added.

GOP efforts to win over black voters and slow the defection of those who remain in the party are nothing new, said Leah Wright Rigor, author of “The Loneliness of the Black Republican.” But she said the party’s attitudes toward black candidates this cycle are remarkable.

“What is far more surprising is that the Republican institution actually invests in black candidates, whether through sponsorships or, more importantly, money,” said the history professor of Johns Hopkins University. “That’s what’s rare.”

Republican organizations have backed black candidates for several home races, including in Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana and Texas.

The GOP also strongly backs Walker, whose campaign has been rocked by allegations that he paid for an abortion for a former girlfriend.

The most recent efforts to diversify the GOP began a decade ago after Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) attracted a lower percentage of black voters than any of the recent Republican presidential candidates before him. He won 6% of the black vote that year, according to exit polls.

Some critics on both sides of the aisle have argued that the Republican Party’s decision to make then-businessman and former reality TV star Donald Trump its 2016 presidential nominee would undo the effort. to show black voters that the GOP could be their political home. But despite polls showing him to be a hugely unpopular candidate with black voters, Trump fared better than Romney. He received the support of 8% of black voters in 2016, and it rose to 12% in 2020. Although the former president was not reelected, that year Trump and Burgess won their contests in the Congress.

Danielle Alvarez, communications director for the RNC, said the goal of this midterm election is to increase the number of Republicans from underrepresented groups elected to Congress two years ago. In addition to nearly 30 black candidates, Republican candidates seeking House seats include 13 Asian Americans, 33 Hispanic Americans, three Native Americans and 80 women.

“Last cycle, we actually flipped 15 House seats and each seat was a black, female, veteran, or Hispanic candidate,” she said. “And we’re seeing even more diverse candidates coming forward.”

“I think this administration is devastating Americans and especially diverse and minority communities,” Alvarez added. “And I think that’s why you see interest in people running for office. And you see a trend where Republicans are growing our party” within various communities.

But black voters, who still overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates, should not be expected to cross paths out of racial loyalty or solidarity with a group identity, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said. the first black American to hold this position.

“If they wave a MAGA flag, I don’t know if it will sell in black neighborhoods, but you know I’m wrong,” said Steele, a frequent critic of Today’s GOP.

Some black Republicans argue that it makes sense for there to be more black representation in the halls of Congress for the party that originally supported the abolition of slavery.

The GOP was the party of choice for black voters before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal introduced a number of programs that helped low-income black Americans secure housing and jobs, prompting more black voters to support the Democratic Party. New efforts to desegregate the U.S. military and federal government led by Harry Truman increased black support for the Democratic Party. And Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of several civil rights pieces of legislation cemented what is now a decades-long relationship between Democratic and black voters, though an often vocal contingent of black conservatives still remained.

Although Republicans are touting increased support among black voters, especially black men, the GOP remains unpopular with black voters overall due to political positions and personalities that many blacks have viewed as racist or intolerant. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll conducted this year found that three-quarters of black Americans say the Republican Party is racist against black Americans; a quarter say the same of the Democratic Party.

The current number of three black Republicans in Congress is the highest number to serve concurrently since Reconstruction, when political power and rights for black Americans were expanded, albeit temporarily. Between the years 1873 and 1877, the end of Reconstruction, seven black Republicans served in the House and two black Republicans held seats in the Senate. Only one black Republican woman has been elected to Congress: Rommer Rep. Mia Love was elected to represent Utah’s 4th congressional district in 2014 and served two terms. She lost her bid for a third term in 2018.

This year’s group of black GOP candidates appears to have a level of support from national party leaders and donors that could boost the number of black Republicans serving in the House and Senate.

“In the past, black Republicans struggled to get money and support from the Republican infrastructure even when candidates could raise a lot of money,” Riguer said, referring to candidates like Kimberly Klacik, who lost his 2020 special election to Democrat Kweisi Mfume by 40 points despite a viral ad that caught Trump’s attention Democrats for Scourge, Crime and Other Baltimore Urban Challenges.

Thanks in large part to small donors across the country, Klacik has raised more than $8 million.

“They don’t approve of all the black Republicans running right now,” Wright Rigor added. “But if they endorse a candidate, they either believe the candidate could win, or at least be disruptive enough to change the texture of the race.”

Hunt, the candidate for Congress from Texas, said more black GOP lawmakers in Congress could help bridge racial and cultural divides in the country. He told the Post that the lack of more black Republicans to champion the black community at Republican tables has ultimately disadvantaged black Americans.

“We need black voices as Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “The few people of color on both sides of the aisle really diminish our ability to articulate the black experience in America.”

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