February 8, 2022
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and strategists from the top House Republican super PAC spent two elections trying to lure John James, an Army veteran and highly sought-after GOP recruit, to run for a Detroit-area congressional seat.
Last week, they finally landed him after pitching James, a two-time Senate candidate, with three rounds of promising polling and stressing how the House launched the careers of GOP stars like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence. It was a years-in-the-making recruitment that put an exclamation point on a slate of Republican House candidates who could both flip the majority and change the composition of the GOP in the coming years.
House Republicans have laser-focused their recruitment efforts on candidates like James, a Black West Point graduate-turned-businessman, who can transform the makeup of a party pilloried for its overwhelming roster of white men. Every Republican who flipped a Democratic House district in 2020 was a woman or person of color, and party leaders want to replicate that success on a larger scale.
“John is a blue-chip recruit, and his candidacy effectively means Democrats can’t win this seat in 2022,” said Dan Conston, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the GOP super PAC involved in drafting James. “Getting these kinds of people not only defines the future of the party, but it also ensures that we are going to win these seats in 2022. And we are going to be in an exceptionally good position to hold these seats for some time to come.”
Broadly, there are more Republican women and Hispanics running for Congress than ever before, according to figures tracked by the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. So far, more than 253 women and 228 people of color have filed to run as Republicans across the House map, the committee says. In the most important seats, roughly two dozen open and battleground districts, a leading GOP candidate is either a woman or a person of color.
It’s a stunning turnaround from the aftermath of the 2018 election, when the number of GOP women in the House dropped to just 13 and there was only one Black Republican in the chamber. When Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) sounded the alarm, she sparred with the NRCC over whether the party ought to intervene in primary contests to fix the disparity. There is no such discord heading into 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.
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