As Republicans took control of an unprecedented 69 of 99 statehouse chambers in the midterm elections, they did not rely solely on a bench of older white men. Key races hinged on the strategic recruitment of women and minorities, many of them first-time candidates who are now learning the ropes and joining the pool of prospects for higher office.
They include Jill Upson, the first black Republican woman elected to the West Virginia House; Victoria Seaman, the first Latina Republican elected to the Nevada Assembly; Beth Martinez Humenik, whose win gave Republicans a one-seat edge in the Colorado Senate; and Young Kim, a Korean-American woman who was elected to the California Assembly, helping to break the Democratic supermajority in the State Legislature.
In Pennsylvania, Harry Lewis Jr., a retired black educator, won in a new House district that was expected to be a Democratic stronghold; he printed his campaign materials in English and Spanish. Of the 12 Latinos who will serve in statewide offices across the nation in 2015, eight are Republican.
“This is not just rhetoric — we spent over $6 million to identify new women and new candidates of diversity and bring them in,” said Matt Walter, the executive director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. “Most of these chambers were flipped because there was a woman or a person of diverse ethnicity in a key targeted seat.”
The wins, by candidates carefully chosen to challenge the traditional notion of the Democratic base, bode well for Republicans in future elections. They had a net gain of 59 women in state legislatures; Democrats lost 63 women. Republicans added 10 Latinos; Democrats lost five. Republicans reported 17 newly elected blacks; a comparable figure for Democrats was not available. In 2008, only about 31 percent of women in state legislatures were Republicans; in 2015, that figure will rise by eight percentage points.Here is NALEO's list of Latinos in statewide elected office:
- CA Alex Padilla (D) Secretary of State
- CO Joseph Garcia (D) Lieutenant Governor
- FL Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) Lieutenant Governor
- IL Evelyn Sanguinetti (R) Lieutenant Governor
- NM Susana Martinez (R) Governor
- NM John Sanchez (R) Lieutenant Governor
- NM Dianna Duran (R) Secretary of State
- NM Hector Balderas (D) Attorney General
- NV Brian Sandoval (R) Governor
- RI Nellie Gorbea (D) Secretary of State
- TX George P. Bush (R) Commissioner of the General Land Office
- UT Sean Reyes (R) Attorney General