Va. GOP puts em­pha­sis on mi­nor­ity can­di­dates

Democrats lead in a state where Latino and Asian pop­u­la­tions are boom­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY RACHEL WEINER

When it comes to at­tract­ing mi­nor­ity vot­ers, Repub­li­cans are start­ing to catch up with Democrats in one key way in Vir­ginia: re­cruit­ing non­white can­di­dates to run for public of­fice.

In pri­maries last week for this fall’s leg­isla­tive elec­tions, Repub­li­cans nom­i­nated two Asians and one His­panic, as well as a Jewish im­mi­grant from Be­larus. On the Demo­cratic side, mean­while, two Asian Amer­i­can Democrats ran and fell short in the pri­maries, as did sev­eral women and African Amer­i­can can­di­dates. The Demo­cratic can­di­dates nom­i­nated in com­pet­i­tive races Tues­day were en­tirely white and male.

“For two cy­cles in arow, we­have a field that looks and feels like North­ern Vir­ginia,” said Ed Gille­spie, aformerRepub­li­canNa--

tional Com­mit­tee chair­man who is work­ing to pre­pare the GOP for the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Democrats con­tinue to win the lion’s share of mi­nor­ity votes, and the party in­cludes far more non­white public of­fi­cials in its ranks. On top of that, Vir­ginia’s boom­ing pop­u­la­tion of Lati­nos and Asians, par­tic­u­larly in the sub­urbs of Wash­ing­ton, has helped give Democrats an un­de­ni­able edge in re­cent statewide elec­tions: They haven’t lost one in six years.

In other words, the Repub­li­can fo­cus on re­cruit­ing mi­nor­ity can­di­dates isn’t likely to trans­late im­me­di­ately into new vic­to­ries among non­white vot­ers. But it re­flects a re­al­ity that GOP strate­gists are keenly aware of: If they don’t try to win a greater share of the mi­nor­ity vote, they are ced­ing to Democrats the fastest-grow­ing seg­ment of the elec­torate. And if they fig­ure out how to do it, the Vir­ginia GOP could be­come a model for other cru­cial swing states where mi­nor­ity vot­ers can make or break the out­come of elec­tions.

Both the His­panic and Asian pop­u­la­tions in the state are grow­ing, es­pe­cially in North­ern Vir­ginia. Since 2010, roughly 60,000 Asians and 80,000His­pan­ics have ar­rived in the state — enough to help sway the out­comes of elec­tions in a state with about 5.2 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), for in­stance, won his elec­tion in 2013 by a mar­gin of just 54,000 votes.

Repub­li­cans in Vir­ginia and na- tion­ally have very pub­licly tried to ex­pand their party’s ap­peal with mi­nori­ties. Not only do Repub­li­cans want to cap­ture at least some sliver of this pop­u­la­tion, but they also want to sig­nal to younger white vot­ers that the party is in­clu­sive.

Two Repub­li­can women were nom­i­nated in Se­nate con­tests Tues­day and are ex­pected to win in Novem­ber. A third is chal­leng­ing state Sen. John S. Ed­wards (D-Roanoke), who is vul­ner­a­ble in a three-way race that in­cludes an in­de­pen­dent who could steal Demo­cratic votes.

In Loudoun County, Viet­namese im­mi­grant Chuong Nguyen is run­ning for the seat be­ing va­cated by Del. David I. Ra­madan (R). Korean Amer­i­can Sang Yi is chal­leng­ing Del. David L. Bulova (D) in Fair­fax. His­panic busi­ness­man Danny Var­gas is run­ning for re­tir­ing Repub­li­can Del. Thomas David Rust’s seat in Hern­don.

All three dis­tricts have sig­nif­i­cant Asian and His­panic pop­u­la­tions. And in all th­ese cases, along with a su­per­vi­sor race in Fair­fax, Repub­li­cans quickly ral­lied around their mi­nor­ity can­di­dates, rather than throw­ing them into tough pri­maries.

There is no stronger sign of the im­por­tance of mi­nor­ity vot­ers to politi­cians than the grow­ing num­ber of com­mu­nity events and eth­nic fes­ti­vals ap­pear­ing on the sched­ules of both Repub­li­cans and Democrats. Last year while on the con­gres­sional cam­paign trail in North­ern Vir­ginia, Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock (R) hopped from Latino-heavy Manas­sas to In­dian and Pak­istani fes­ti­vals to the Viet- namese-dom­i­nated Eden Cen­ter shop­ping mall in Falls Church.

And on Satur­day, both par­ties set up ta­bles at an an­nual fes­ti­val in An­nan­dale, the cen­ter of Vir­ginia’s Korean Amer­i­can com­mu­nity. A hand­ful of of­fice­hold­ers also at­tended, in­clud­ing Rep. Gerald E. Con­nolly (D), state Sen David W. Mars­den (D-Fair­fax) and Fair­fax Board Chair Sharon Bulova (D). One wore a straw hat; an­other car­ried a hand­held fan. They greeted con­stituents and vis­ited food booths, sampling spring rolls and talk­ing to the crowd. On stage, sev­eral of them at­tempted bro­ken phrases of Korean and Span­ish.

“We have wel­comed so many peo­ple from so­many walks of life,” said Fair­fax Su­per­vi­sor Pene­lope A. Gross (D-Ma­son). “We’ve made it work.” She cited di­ver­sity as the “bedrock in our com­mu­nity.”

Although Democrats still dom­i­nate in most mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties, they were less suc­cess­ful in some ways than Repub­li­cans in last­week’s pri­maries when it came to re­cruit­ing mi­nor­ity can­di­dates into open races.

Sev­eral Democrats were par­tic­u­larly both­ered that the estab­lish­ment ral­lied around Jeremy McPike for an open Se­nate seat in Prince Wil­liam County over Atif Qarni, am­ath teacher and for­mer Marine who en­tered the race first and with stronger fundrais­ing.

“My un­der­stand­ing was that the cur­rent Demo­cratic cau­cus unof­fi­cially made it clear that their fa­vorite was Jeremy McPike,” said Del. Mark L. Keam (D-Fair­fax), who sup­ported Qarni. “I’m a lit­tle bit frus­trated that our party doesn’t think about, to the ex­tent that’s pos­si­ble, if we have two or three can­di­dates that are strong and equally qual­i­fied, think about di­ver­sity.”

Mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties have long felt taken for granted by a party that over­whelm­ingly wins the sup­port of blacks, Lati­nos and Asians year af­ter year. For some, party lead­ers’ pref­er­ence for McPike ex­ac­er­bated those feel­ings.

“We felt in the gen­eral elec­tion, talk­ing to peo­ple in Prince Wil­liam, that [McPike] was the strong­est can­di­date,” Se­nate Demo­cratic Cau­cus Chair­man Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fair­fax) said. “Youwant the best can­di­date out there in the gen­eral elec­tion.”

The open seat in Prince Wil­liam, be­ing va­cated by Sen. Charles J. Col­gan (D), is a rare swing seat on the edge of the D.C. re­gion. Nearly half black and His­panic and 8 per­cent Asian, ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia Public Ac­cess Project, it’s one of the most di­verse dis­tricts in the state.

Qarni said he thinks that some lo­cal party lead­ers were con­cerned that his Mus­lim reli­gion would ham­per his bid.

The prob­lem is in part an un­in­tended con­se­quence of the party’s suc­cess in North­ern Vir­ginia.

In the D.C. sub­urbs, so many of­fices are held by Democrats that turnover is rare and open seats at­tract mul­ti­ple strong can­di­dates. Lack­ing the in­ter­nal ide­o­log­i­cal di­vi­sions that have bedev­iled Repub­li­cans in the state, Democrats rarely chal­lenge in­cum­bents.

“It’s very, very com­pet­i­tive,” said Sue Lan­g­ley, chair­woman of the Fair­fax County Demo­cratic Com­mit­tee and an im­mi­grant from Thai­land. Run­ning and sus­tain­ing a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, she said, is “very dif­fi­cult, par­tic­u­larly for first-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grants — they have to earn their living.”

She noted that the county party has two His­panic can­di­dates and one African Amer­i­can com­pet­ing this fall: two for school board and one chal­leng­ing Del. David B. Albo (R-Fair­fax). In lo­cal races across North­ern Vir­ginia, four women and two African Amer­i­cans were elected.

Democrats re­main the far more di­verse party. Twenty of the 23 non­white state law­mak­ers in of­fice are Democrats. Demo­cratic dis­tricts, too, tend to be less white. The party is field­ing a fe­male chal­lenger against Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) and an African Amer­i­can man to take on Sen. Frank W. Wag­ner (R-Vir­ginia Beach). In the Rich­mond area, two African Amer­i­can can­di­dates were nom­i­nated for open House seats. A His­panic can­di­date was just re­cruited to take on Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Thomas K. Nor­ment Jr. (R-James City), who hasn’t faced a Demo­cratic chal­lenge since 2003.

Democrats are also ral­ly­ing non­white vot­ers via the legal sys­tem. A law­suit filed Thurs­day chal­lenges the state’s photo voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion law and would re­store vot­ing rights to non­vi­o­lent for­mer felons.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.