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The party has fielded 67 Black, Latino, Asian or Native American candidates for the House, by its count, and the number in Congress is almost certain to grow.
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House Republicans are fielding a slate of 67 Black, Latino, Asian or Native American candidates on the ballot in November, by the party’s count, raising an opportunity to change the composition of a House G.O.P. conference that now has only a dozen members of color.
Depending on the outcome, those Republican candidates say, they could challenge the notion that theirs is the party of white voters.
The lineup of Republican candidates is historic — 32 Latinos, 22 Black candidates, 11 Asian Americans and two Native Americans, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. (Of those candidates, four identify as more than one race.) Many of them are long shots in heavily Democratic districts, but with so few Republicans of color now in Congress, the party’s complexion will almost certainly look different next year.
More remarkable, perhaps, is that the Republican candidates are nearing the finish line even as some of the party’s white lawmakers have ratcheted up racist language or lines of attack — a sign that some party leaders remain unconcerned about racial sensitivity.
This weekend, Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, rallied with former President Donald J. Trump in Nevada and told the crowd that Democrats were “pro-crime” and wanted reparations — widely understood as a reference to slavery — for “the people that do the crime.” At the same event, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, invoked the racist “great replacement theory” when she said, “Joe Biden’s five million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you.”
Elsewhere, including in Wisconsin and North Carolina, Democrats have accused Republicans of darkening the skin of Black candidates in campaign materials and of running ads brazenly trying to tether Black politicians to Black criminals.
The 2022 candidates do not want such issues to derail their groundbreaking runs. After watching the comments from Ms. Greene and Mr. Tuberville, Anna Paulina Luna, a Latina favored to win a House seat in Florida, responded carefully but did not condemn them, instead saying, “Establishment Democrats are exploiting illegals as political currency.”
“Many times, illegal immigrants are employed under the table. Many Americans are not offered fair wages because some choose to pay illegals under the table at lower cost,” she said, continuing, “During the naturalization process, individuals are required to learn about our history and culture. That is important as a nation.”
Still, the numbers speak for themselves. The only two Black Republicans in the House, Representatives Burgess Owens of Utah and Byron Donalds of Florida, are likely to be joined by Wesley Hunt of Texas and John James of Michigan, Black G.O.P. candidates who are favored to win on Nov. 8. The numbers of this small group could rise further with victories by Jennifer-Ruth Green in Indiana, John Gibbs in Michigan and George Logan in Connecticut, all of whom have a chance.
The ranks of the seven incumbent Latino Republicans in the House could nearly double if all six Latino candidates in tight races triumph. And Allan Fung, a Republican in a tossup contest in Rhode Island, could lift the number of Asian American Republicans by 50 percent if he wins and two Southern California incumbents, Representatives Young Kim and Michelle Steel, beat back Democratic challengers.
“It’s Hispanic people, Black people, Black women, Black men, Asian men, Asian women,” Mr. Hunt of Texas said in an interview. “It has been outstanding to see our party get to the point where, yeah, we’re conservatives, but guess what: We’re also not monolithic.”
Republicans have a long way to go to match the Democrats in diversity. A strong G.O.P. showing in November could bring the number of Black Republicans in the House to seven. House Democrats have 56 Black members, including influential leaders.
If Republicans end up with 13 Latino members in the House, they still will not measure up to the 34 Hispanic Democrats.
And with the right political breaks, Democrats could end up bolstering their already diverse caucus. Fourteen out of the 36 Democrats aiming for competitive Republican seats are candidates of color.
Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the House Democratic campaign arm, said that “Republicans are mistaken if they think finally engaging with communities of color in the year 2022 with flawed candidates” would distance their party from what he called an “unpopular, extreme agenda.”
“While Republicans attempt to dilute the number of white supremacists within their ranks, their politics of dividing Americans and promoting hate remains,” he said.
Republicans, however, see a virtuous circle in the gains they are making: As more candidates of color triumph, the thinking goes, more will enter future races, and more voters of color will see a home in the Republican Party.
“We’re narrative busters,” said Mr. Donalds, who helped the National Republican Congressional Committee with recruiting candidates. “We break up the dogma of Democratic politics, in terms of how to view Republicans.”
Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the group’s chairman, said this year’s slate was no accident. Four years ago, when he took over the committee, he set about changing the way Republicans recruited candidates, seeking far more diversity. The group would de-emphasize the Washington-based consultants who had a financial stake in promoting their candidates and instead rely on members to seek out talent in their districts.
Two years ago was a dry run; House Republicans gained an unexpected 14 seats, and every seat they flipped from Democrats was captured by a woman or a candidate of color.
Mr. Trump’s gains with Hispanic voters and Black men — which he made despite his stream of racist and xenophobic comments while in office — inspired a fresh push by Republicans.
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, who helped with Latino recruitment, said it was not a difficult pitch. More Hispanic candidates were galvanized to run by soaring inflation rates, a surge of migrants in heavily Latino border districts and a growing sense that Democrats were now the party of the educated elite, he said.
“Democrats, one could argue, have done a good job with their rhetoric, but their policies have been disastrous, and they’ve been particularly disastrous for the working class,” Mr. Diaz-Balart said. “Was Trump’s rhetoric the words that would be ideal to get Latino voters? No, but the policies were.”
Mr. Donalds insisted the former president was not a racist but said, “The question is really silly at this point.”
“Republicans now are far more open and far more direct about talking to every voter, not just Republican voters, quote, unquote,” he said. “I think that that’s what’s given the impetus for people to decide to run.”
That and a lot of pushing. Mr. Emmer spoke of meeting a trade expert who worked for Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona two years ago, then telling Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, to persuade Juan Ciscomani to run.
Mr. Ciscomani recalled talking over the possibility with his wife and Mr. Ducey in 2018 and 2020 before backing away. In the spring of 2021, the one-two push from Mr. Emmer and Mr. McCarthy sealed the deal.
“Democrats have taken the Hispanic vote for granted,” he said. “They pandered to the Hispanic community, saying what they wanted to hear and doing nothing about it.” He added: “But Republicans never made an effort. They never tried to get their votes.”
Mr. Ciscomani is now favored to win back Arizona’s Sixth Congressional District from the Democrats.
In 2020, Mr. James — a Black Republican whom Mr. Emmer called “a candidate that only comes along once in a while” — fell short in a surprisingly close race to unseat Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan. Afterward, the N.R.C.C. chairman cleared a path for Mr. James to run for the House.
“I told him, ‘To learn to really refine your ability when it comes to campaigning and to understand the business of campaigning, there’s nothing wrong with starting in the House,’” Mr. Emmer said.
Mr. Hunt had also tried to run for office and failed — in 2020, for a House seat in the Houston suburbs. In 2018, Mr. McCarthy had been in Houston for a fund-raiser when he met Mr. Hunt, a veteran West Point graduate with a conservative bent, and pressed him to run.
Mr. Hunt recalled that after his 2020 loss, “Kevin McCarthy called me the next day, and he said: ‘Hang in there. Let’s see what happens after redistricting. We need you up here. Please don’t give up the fight.’”
Mr. Hunt added, “It changed everything.”
Ms. Luna had been a conservative activist and political commentator when she decided on her own to run for a Tampa-area House seat in 2020. She said she did not hear from Republicans in Washington until after she won the Republican primary. But when she came up short against Representative Charlie Crist, the hard sell descended.
Representative Ralph Norman, Republican of South Carolina, called her days after her defeat, seeing her as a potential recruit for the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich followed, and then Mr. Donalds took her under his wing.
“When people see that we are conservatives, we are Republicans, and there’s not this stereotype of what it means to be Republican, I think it empowers them to own their convictions, to own their ideologies,” she said on Friday.
Democrats have made it clear that they will not shy away from criticizing Republican candidates for their positions just because of their backgrounds. They have highlighted college writings by Mr. Gibbs suggesting women should not have the right to vote. Representative Mayra Flores of Texas, who won a special election in June but faces a tough race in a more Democratic district, has promoted QAnon conspiracy theories.
Republicans who want to diversify their ranks say they also hope to change the views of some G.O.P. voters. Mr. Hunt told of a young man who talked with him after a campaign event, then handed his phone over so he could talk to the man’s white grandfather.
“He said: ‘Mr. Hunt, you’re the first Black person I ever voted for my entire life. I’m here to tell you that I was racist, and I grew up racist, and there have been times in my life that I have not treated Black people fairly,’” Mr. Hunt recounted. “‘I met you and I said, I have to get behind this guy, in spite of my prejudice.’”
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