‘The party needs to have a tough conversation’: Republicans play catch-up when it comes to diversity

‘The party needs to have a tough conversation’: Republicans play catch-up when it comes to diversity
Garrison Coward, left, a Republican candidate for a Richmond-area House of Delegates seat, sits for an interview with NBC12. (Source: NBC12)

Compared to past cycles, the Virginia GOP is running a more diverse slate of candidates for this year’s General Assembly elections that includes 13 women who are not incumbents, two black men and one Asian man.

But there’s still work that can, and should, be done on that front, some of the candidates said.

“The party needs to have a tough conversation about where they want to be,” said Garrison Coward, the young, black chief operating officer of a data analytics firm who is running against Democratic Del. Dawn Adams to represent parts of the city of Richmond and Chesterfield and Henrico counties. “They should rally behind everyone and anyone who wants to run on our side.”

Historically, black Americans have favored Democratic candidates and more recently in Virginia, white suburban women have also flocked to Democrats.

“The last several years have really been marked by rapidly increasing diversity in terms of people being elected to office,” said Stephen Farnsworth, political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. “The Democratic candidates who prevailed in 2017 House of Delegates races, specifically in the suburbs, made the House much more diverse. The Republican Party is trying to catch up to provide candidates who aren’t just white males.”

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.