New Faces for the G.O.P.?

At Governing's Outlook conference, Charlie Mahtesian of Politico made a good point: If a few governors' races break with right way for Republicans, the ...
by | February 12, 2010

At Governing's Outlook conference, Charlie Mahtesian of Politico made a good point: If a few governors' races break with right way for Republicans, the party could look more diverse after the November elections.

In Hawaii, the presumptive Republican nominee is Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who comes from a Chinese, Portuguese and Hawaiian background. Aiona starts out as an underdog in the general election because of Hawaii's Democratic inclinations.

In Nevada, former Attorney General Brian Sandoval, a Hispanic, is challenging Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Republican primary. Sandoval is the favorite against Gibbons and, if he wins the primary, he'll be the favorite in the general election too.

In New Mexico, Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez looks like the Republican frontrunner right now. As for the general, at the outset of the cycle, Democrat Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish looked like the strong favorite. But, Bill Richardson's headaches and Democrats' general malaise could give Martinez more of an opening.

In South Carolina, State Rep. Nikki Haley, whose parents emigrated from India, is part of the crowded Republican field. The other candidates are better established, but Haley is a favorite of fiscal conservatives, has Jenny Sanford's endorsement and is the only Republican running who isn't a white man.

Of these four, Sandoval and Martinez clearly have the most symbolic significance. As the G.O.P. reaches out to the nation's largest minority group, it can't hurt to have Hispanic Republican governors of states with large Hispanic populations. If Sandoval and/or Martinez win, they'll be treated like royalty within the Republican Party.

Interestingly, both Sandoval and Martinez take a fairly hard line on immigration issues. I'll be watching whether those views or their Republican Party affiliation impede their ability to court their fellow Hispanics.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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