Dec 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP women, people of color break records in state races

Newly elected Republican state lawmaker Tanya Mirabal Moya of New Mexico stands in front of a tractor.

Newly elected Republican state lawmakers Tanya Mirabal Moya of New Mexico and Tracy Cramer of Oregon. Photos: Courtesy of campaigns.

Republican women and candidates of color made historic gains in state legislative races across the country even as the national GOP struggled during the 2022 midterms.

Why it matters: Several highly touted GOP Latina Republicans failed in their bids for Congress thanks to connections to former President Trump, but women and candidates of color who ran on local issues in state races performed well.

Details: The Republican State Leadership Committee said 769 GOP women and minority candidates were elected in state legislative races this year. That's a record for the GOP.

  • Of those, 85 were Republican candidates of color.
  • Alabama, Kentucky, and Iowa set a record for the number of Republican women elected to the statehouses.

The intrigue: Republicans also saw a string of firsts. Teresa Martinez became the first Hispanic GOP woman elected to the Arizona state legislature, and Soo Hong is the first Asian American Republican woman to be elected to the Georgia state House. 

  • Republican Carrie Gendreau became the first Native American elected to the New Hampshire state Senate. 

What they're saying: "The RSLC's Right Leaders Network built on the success we had in 2021 in Virginia and New Jersey with a strong 2022 in which women and minority state legislative candidates played a key role in helping state Republicans gain seven new supermajorities," said RSLC President Dee Duncan told Axios.

  • Those candidates even made meaningful gains in liberal strongholds, he said.
  • "We were proud to spend over $5.3 million this year recruiting, training, and supporting diverse candidates and look forward to continuing our mission to grow the GOP from the ground up." 

Yes. but: Democrats are still way ahead in the number of women and people of color among the 7,383 lawmakers in state legislatures.

Zoom in: 2023 will see several historic firsts around Democratic Black leadership in state legislatures.

  • Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, Delaware, and Minnesota will all have Black House speakers or higher legislative leadership positions.

But, but, but: Tory Gavito, president and CEO of left-leaning Way to Win, said these historic Republican gains with women and people of color are warning signs for Democrats and show that the GOP will be aggressive in expanding its bases.

Between the lines: State legislative seats are seen as a bench of future stars in both parties. Candidates can run for office and often focus on local issues rather than national partisan debates.

  • Newly elected New Mexico State Rep. Tanya Mirabal Moya (R), a teacher who won a seat in a Democratic stronghold, told Axios few people asked her about Donald Trump on the campaign trail. "I focused on inflation, education, and crime."
  • New Oregon State Rep. Tracy Cramer (R) reached out to the Democratic district's Latino voters with Spanish-language material and spoke about issues in her rural area.

Be smart: State lawmakers who can attract voters from the other party will be attractive candidates for higher office — if they can get through more rigid and partisan primaries.

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