House Republicans could see their first black, gay members in years
House Republicans are expected to expand their majority in Tuesday’s election in part by welcoming a new crop of fiery conservatives - but also by adding something that has been missing from the GOP: diversity.
Republicans in the House will probably add their first African American representative in recent years, if front-runner Mia Love picks up the south Salt Lake City-area open seat. Another black Republican, former CIA undercover officer Will Hurd, is in a tight race with a Democratic incumbent in west Texas.
In addition, House Republicans could see two openly gay congressmen in a conference that currently has none. Republicans Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio in San Diego are both in tough races against Democrats.
Adding to the diversity would be a milestone for House Speaker John A. Boehner, who has crisscrossed the country to expand the playing field for his party.
House Republicans are expected to gain as many as 12 seats, “with slightly larger GOP gains not out of the question,” according to David Wasserman, the House analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
The reinforcements in numbers will help Boehner lead the often unruly conference, giving the Ohio Republican a healthy cushion for tight votes.
Boehner and his party could also benefit if diverse newcomers help improve the party’s brand. It’s no secret the Republican Party has struggled to broaden its base. The last time the House included a black Republican was after Tim Scott of South Carolina and Allen West of Florida were elected in 2010. Scott was appointed to the Senate two years later and West was defeated in a reelection bid.
Democrats, meanwhile, have three times as many women in the House and all of the African American lawmakers.
But the speaker’s political headaches are not completely in the rear-view mirror.
Republicans will be pushing for wholesale change in Washington if the party wins control of the Senate, as is increasingly likely. Several Republican candidates who are all but certain to win their House races on Tuesday could align with the conservative wing of the party that has led Ted Cruz-inspired tea party revolts in the past.
Among them could be Georgia’s Jody Hice, the Baptist minister and talk-radio host who fought the ACLU over displaying the Ten Commandments at a county courthouse; Montana’s Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL who once reportedly called Hillary Rodham Clinton the “anti-Christ”; and Gary Palmer, who is touted by leading conservative groups for his work heading Alabama’s premier conservative think tank.
Being in the majority is almost always better than the alternative, lawmakers say, but for House Republicans winning also comes with challenges.
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