The Republican tide swept from coast-to-coast on election night, washing away the Democratic majority in the House and installing several GOP governors. On Tuesday night, several minority legislators also rode the wave to victory and into the history books.
Latino GOP members had a record-breaking night. They picked up two governors seats and saw the first Latina governor, Susana Martinez, ascend to the executive’s office in New Mexico. Nevada voters also went to the ballot box and elected the state’s first Hispanic governor, Brian Sandoval. Marco Rubio won the Florida senator’s race over Governor Charlie Crist, while Jamie Herrera and Raul Labrador became the first Hispanic congressmen from Washington State and Idaho respectively.
Not to be outdone, Black Republicans also made great strides in the midterm elections. Tim Scott became the first Black Republican to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House since Reconstruction, while Allen West bested a two-term Democrat to become the first Black Republican congressman from Florida since the 1870s.
“It is very heartening for our country to see this kind of diversity moving forward,” said Hilary Shelton, director to the NAACP’s Washington bureau. Mr. Shelton also recalled that a Black Republican has not served in Congress since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma left office in 2003. (source)
While some argue that Democrats take the minority vote, and specifically the Black vote, for granted, many Black Republicans feel that President Obama’s 2008 victory opened the door to a more diverse GOP party. This election cycle, fourteen Black Republicans vied for House seats, nearly double the number in 2008.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Richard Ivory, founder of hiphoprepublicans.com, said, “Color is becoming less of an issue. There was a time when the white electorate saw race first and made judgments based on this alone.”
Polling shows that all Americans, regardless of race, want Congress to focus on the country’s problems. Jobs, healthcare, and education rank among the top concerns for voters. Moreover, the electorate is becoming progressively more diverse, with minority voters, especially Latinos, becoming increasingly important to winning elections.
According to Eric Rodriguez, National Council of La Raza Vice President, politicians from both major parties would be wise to champion issues that minorities care about, as well as support a more colorful slate of candidates.