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Post Trump, House GOP recruiting chair looks to build off 2020

Aaron Navarro
·5 min read
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Unlike President Trump and Senate Republicans in 2020, House GOP lawmakers were able to hold onto every seat held by an incumbent in 2020 and even succeeded in flipping 15 seats. They attribute their 2020 success to recruiting: Most of the candidates who flipped House seats were minorities, women or veterans. In 2022, they view recruiting as essential to flipping the five seats needed to win back the House.

Congresswoman Carol Miller, of West Virginia, the recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee, is leading that effort. 

She is the third woman in a row to serve in the position, following Elise Stefanik of New York and Susan Brooks of Indiana, who is coming off a cycle where 30 Republican women —  a party record —  were elected.

They still lag Democrats, who have 87 women serving and nine times as many women of color in office, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

Miller, the only new Republican woman elected in 2018, told CBS News that recruiting more GOP women is a goal and that she tells women considering a run, "they need to have a fire in their belly, because it takes an extra step to get a woman to commit. She puts so much more on the line than a man does."

"We have wonderful candidates who are now in Congress, and we will continue along that way in my recruiting," she said. 

She tapped Nicole Malliotakis of New York, a Congresswoman who flipped the south Brooklyn and Staten Island seat in 2020, and Byron Donalds of Florida to help recruit candidates.

Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, John Curtis of Utah, Jack Bergman of Michigan, Greg Murphy of North Carolina and John Katko of New York, who represents a district President Biden won, are also part of the team. 

Donalds, who is one of two Black Republicans in the House, said his election in a district that's not a majority-minority area defeats the notion that the GOP is "a racist party."

"What we are finding is that more and more, we have people, whether they are women or minorities, that are actually deciding to throw their hat in the ring and run under our banner. That's only going to increase," he said.

Miller faces some hurdles. Her party lost the two branches of government it controlled going into the 2020 elections and has an uneasy alliance with Mr. Trump after the January 6 Capitol riot, sparked by thousands of his supporters who sought a different outcome to the election than President Joe Biden's victory. 

Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Mr. Trump on a charge of "incitement of the insurrection," and the former president has vowed to find primary opponents to oust all of them from office. But Miller shrugs off those concerns.

"I don't look at us as being a divided party. I look at us as being a large party that has many different points of view," said Miller, who voted to object to the electoral college results. "It's all about the voters. It's not about who said what, or 'this former president said what.'"

Miller has not spoken to Mr. Trump, who has egged on challenges to Republicans that voted to impeach him, about recruiting. She added if he is the nominee again for 2024, she's "sure that the people elected around him will share very strong goals that he does."

"I may or may not [speak to him] in the course of the next year and a half, but that isn't my job. My job is to meet people and get really good, strong candidates," she said.

Representative Young Kim of California, who made history as one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress, credits her own recruitment in 2018 to encouragement from Stefanik as well as former United Nations Ambassador and Governor Nikki Haley. 

After narrowly losing her first race, Kim was urged by Miller to run again in 2020. She ended up flipping her Orange County seat in a district Mr. Biden won. 

Kim said the biggest challenge ahead in growing diversity in the caucus, is getting these candidates through their primaries. She has endorsed Sery Kim, a former Trump administration official and Korean-American woman, for the May special election in Texas' 6th District.

"You look for candidates that really fit the district," she said. "Then you provide the support they need."

The NRCC doesn't endorse in primaries, leaving a vacuum for lawmakers and outside GOP groups to boost their preferred candidates. The Congressional Leadership Fund launched their own hard-money operation on Wednesday, allowing the super PAC to contribute directly to and endorse candidates. 

The role for Miller and her team is to vet candidates the committee believes can win, convince them to run and provide guidance. One potential candidate they've talked to is New York Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, who may challenge Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, the upstate Democrat who is also chair of the Democratic House campaign arm.

For now, budget negotiations and scandals surrounding Governor Andrew Cuomo are taking up the political "oxygen," so he's not jumping in yet. Redistricting in New York, which is set to lose a Congressional district, is also a factor.

"We're going to see a rebirth of the Republican party, a growth in the Republican brand," he said, adding that the party has to build off the crop of voters Mr. Trump activated.

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