California GOP seizes diversity mantle

With the November election fast approaching, Californians are beginning to take a hard look at their various candidates. What they find may surprise them. While it is a staple of political discussion (especially in California) to view Republicans as a party of predominately white, male, old and homogeneous voters, the leading contenders on the Republican ticket this election cycle scarcely fit this definition. Moreover, the Democratic contenders for office have taken on an unusually homogenous tinge, given their traditional base, leading to an odd politically reversed slate of candidates whose impression on voters is highly unpredictable. And why does the Republican ticket carry such diversity?

As Republican-friendly columnist Kris Vera-Phillips puts it at News 10:

“Not only is this the most diverse in that it includes three women, a Latino and an African American. More importantly, (1) it shows what is possible if we effectively tap that diversity and (2) it provides great models to Californians everywhere of what can be achieved if individually we work hard and collectively we give others the tools they need to succeed.

Yes Damon Dunn, the GOP candidate for Secretary of State, is African-American. But what is important to us is he shows how someone who grew up in a 3 bedroom trailer with 10 adults[…]

Yes, Carly Fiorina, GOP candidate for the US Senate, is a woman. But what is important is that she shows that a young girl who started out in the secretarial pool can go on to run one of the largest companies in the world. Then overcome breast cancer to run for the US Senate because she has seen first-hand how Washington’s policies and Boxer’s arrogance have cost millions their jobs and increased spending to unsustainable levels.

Yes, Abel Maldonado is a Latino. But what is important is that he shows that the son of an immigrant can rise to hold the second highest office in the state, Lt. Governor.”

No polling has been done on Damon Dunn’s race, though he has been attracting unconventional supporters and a degree of legitimacy with voters that should intrigue political observers. Meanwhile, in the Senate Race, Fiorina’s unusual characteristics seem to have gotten her play where other candidates would not. Consider the recent news that Rasmussen Reports has moved the California Senate race into its tossup column. Whether this news is the result of Fiorina’s compelling life story, her large financial solvency or simply the unattractiveness of her opponent is anyone’s guess, but the fact that Fiorina looks so dissimilar to Boxer’s previous opponents probably has at least something to do with it.

However, Maldonado complicates the picture, as his diverse background has been seemingly the least noticed, just as base enthusiasm for him is the weakest. He trails Democratic Lieutenant Governor Nominee Gavin Newsom by 9 points according to a recent poll. This could tick up, but one possible explanation is that Newsom, who is known primarily for his defiant stance on gay marriage, represents an ideal of diversity more convincing to California voters than that embodied by Maldonado. This suggests that the California GOP faces an interesting line to walk – trumpeting its diversity without falling into the trap of tokenism. Thus far, their ability to do so is unclear. However, the uniqueness of this year’s GOP slate means that whatever the outcome in November, a greater degree of angles exist for analyzing the race.