ATLANTA — The candidates who stepped forward to enter the Republican primary offer more diversity than Democrats may be willing to acknowledge.
After Mitt Romney’s loss to a president with high negative ratings during a weak economy, the Republican National Committee conducted what came to be known as the autopsy, which warned that demographic changes could spell the end of GOP prominence.
The prescription offered by the authors was diversity and outreach.
Of course, the strongest outreach is done with good candidates, making the candidate qualifying period as crucial as Mark Richt’s recruiting for the Georgia Bulldogs’ football success. The quality of the walk-on players also speaks volumes about a team’s perceived prospects since everyone wants to wear the jersey of a winner.
So, whether they were recruits or walk-ons, the candidates trying out for the fall ticket illustrate interest from a diverse population.
Start with the U.S. Senate hopefuls. They include a woman, Karen Handel, a black, Derrick Grayson, and once included a Korean-American, Eugene Yu. Although he dropped out of that race, he didn’t leave the field, merely moving down to the 12th congressional district, which now includes its own woman besides three white men.
Four of the five contested GOP primaries for federal office include a woman on the ballot.
Not just a token, but women like Handel that have either held appointed or elective office, with the exception of attorney Diane Swanson Vann in the 12th District.
Generally, federal races are won by experienced politicians because they have the connections, skills and fundraising ability to triumph. State superintendent of schools, on the other hand, is where newcomers tend to win.
That’s probably why it has attracted enough candidates to field a baseball team.
Among those nine are four women and two blacks. They’re not tokens, either. Two of the women have been elected to local school boards, and the third is a corporate executive who’s headed district Republican Party organizations.
The black men both have law degrees and impressive professional credentials. One of them, Ashley Bell, is a Hall County commissioner and the winner of last week’s Coweta County GOP straw poll, vaulting from 17 percent before that night’s forum to 48 percent afterward. Finishing the night in second was one of the women, Nancy Jester.
The nominations could all still go to middle-aged white men, like those currently holding all statewide and the Republican’s federal offices.
The polls made public so far suggests that will happen, except, perhaps, in the superintendent’s contest.
Republicans don’t have a pattern of picking nominees for the sake of diversity.
Still, the party could gain of modicum of support from blacks and women if these candidates at least get into runoffs where they would gain more attention.
Then again, the top of the Republican ticket is going to include a grandfather running opposite a boyish 39-year-old Jason Carter on the Democratic ticket. The Senate candidate, if Handel’s prospects don’t improve, will feature a conservative white guy against, most likely Michelle Nunn, who seems to support the moderate views of younger voters.