As the GOP made historic gains on Tuesday night, three black Republicans made history.
Utah’s Mia Love became the first black female member of the GOP to ever be elected to Congress and the first person of color ever to represent the state. Tim Scott became the first black candidate to be elected to statewide office since Reconstruction and the first ever black senator elected in South Carolina. And House candidate Will Hurd became the first black Republican elected in Texas since Reconstruction.
The three Republicans will be the only African-Americans in their party on Capitol Hill and their elections will bolster their party’s diversity and potentially their credibility among black voters going into 2016. After being trounced by Democrats with black and Latino voters in the last two presidential elections, the GOP has made a concerted effort to recruit, elect, and appeal to more minorities. For instance, potential 2016 candidate Sen. Rand Paul has eagerly began courting black voters, visiting voters in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and other historically black communities.
In House of Representatives elections this year, according to exit poll data, just 10% of African-Americans said they voted for Republican candidates and 89% backed Democratic candidates, so it’ll be an upward hill for the GOP to attract black voters.
“I think it speaks volumes for South Carolina and the progress we have made in the state,” Scott said about his victory.
The state’s Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Scott to fill the seat upon then-Sen. Jim DeMint’s resignation, but Tuesdayhe secured the seat through a general election, winning 55% of the vote. According to NBC News exit polls, he won just 10% of the black vote, instead pulling in 88% of the white vote to secure his win.
Not everyone in South Carolina saw progress in Scott’s candidacy. “If you call progress electing a person with the pigmentation that he has, who votes against the interest and aspirations of 95% of the black people in South Carolina, then I guess that’s progress,” Rep. James E. Clyburn, a black Democrat, told the Washington Post. And at the polls, much of the country expressed pessimism about race relations. Just 20% of voters nationwide say they’ve improved and just about twice as many voters said they’ve gotten worse.
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In Utah, Love, 38, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, won 50% of the vote. There is not yet any data on the racial make-up of Love’s voters. Three new African-American women candidates were also voted into the House of Representatives as Democrats—North Carolina’s Alma Adams (the first woman to represent that district), Michigan’s Brenda Lawrence (the first woman of color to represent that district)and New Jersey’s Bonnie Watson Coleman (the first woman of color to represent that state) will join fifteen other Black, Democratic women. New Jersey also elected former Newark mayor Cory Booker, a black Democrat, to a full term as a U.S. senator on Tuesday.
“Tonight you have made history!” she told supporters. The pro-life, concealed-weapon permit carrying Republican plans to join the Congressional Black Caucus, which is almost entirely Democratic. Love campaigned on fiscal discipline—she wants to cut the debt and curb spending—limited government, and personal responsibility.
“Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black Republican LDS woman to Congress. Not only did we do it, we were the first to do it!,” referring to the fact that she’s Mormon.