The New GOP has made a significant change in a short period of time. It is no longer the image of old, grumpy men who harrumphing about cigars at Ugly Pants Night at their local Chamber of Commerce.
It is finally looking more like a grand old party.
Today, I want to introduce you to two congressional candidates who have been beneficiaries of the New GOP and are also its movers.
Last night, I heard a whisper from a birdie in my ear that Virginia’s 7th Congressional District was one of the races to watch for on election night. Here, Republican Yesli Vega will be taking on Abigail Spanberger, a two-term incumbent Democrat.
Vega is the child of El Salvador’s civil War refugees. Rene, an Army veteran, is her husband. They have two children. Vega started her career in Virginia law enforcement as a field training officer, patrol officer, hostage negotiator, and member of a crisis intervention team.
In 2019, she won an open seat on Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors. Her campaign website says it all:
Due to her commitment to advocating and fighting for conservative principles, Yesli won the Republican nomination with over 80% of the vote. She then won the general election in her Democrat-leaning district by thirteen points in a blue wave year, not by running away from her conservative principles, but by boldly proclaiming them.
Glenn Youngkin, Virginia Governor, was so impressed by Vega’s Hispanic outreach chair in his successful bid to unseat Democrat Ralph Northam in 2021.
Personally, I find it most important that Vega protects children from groomers at our schools.
Spanberger’s screaming fits are because boys can’t go into girls restrooms or dominate girls sports in Virginia.
— Yesli Vega (@yestoyesli) September 22, 2022
Cook ranks the district as R+3, so why is this race worth watching? Shouldn’t Vega be a shoo-in?
First, Virginia is located on the East Coast. The polls close at 7 p.m. local. These early returns should give us an indication of which party is generating enthusiasm and, more importantly, turnout.
The 7th was in Republican hands for almost 50 years, before Spanberger defeated Dave Brat in 2018. Despite this being a poor year for Republicans, Spanberger was able to win reelection in 2020. Republicans performed well in congressional elections.
If someone as young as Vega, who is relatively inexperienced, can win a huge victory against a “moderate” Democrat incumbent then it will be a good night for the New GOP across the country. The Old GOP is also represented, although to a lesser degree. But that’s another column.
Let’s now move to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where even the most blue-colored, Hispanic-dominated congressional district has been tinted a little redder in recent decades.
The Texas 15th CD was formed in 1920. It has never sent a Republican to Congress. But Monica De La Cruz may be making a difference this year. The Texas Tribune describes it as the “most competitive congressional race in Texas.”
It’s a redo for the 2020 election. De La Cruz was less than 3 points away from unseating Gonzalez in the historically Democratic district. De La Cruz’s campaign cash flow is huge this round. He reported nearly $3 million in receipts at the end of June. This contrasts with the $422,000 raised for the whole 2020 cycle.
De La Cruz, a Brownsville native who was raised by a single mother, grew up to become an owner of an insurance agency and also ran two small businesses.
Here is her most recent ad:
Notice how she describes herself as a conservative Republican from a swing district. She promises to end catch-and-release, restore Donald Trump’s “remain-in-Mexico” policy, build the border wall and finish Donald Trump’s “remain-in-Mexico” policy. This should tell you something about the voter moods on the 15th.
Cook Political reports that redistricting transformed the D+7 district to an R+1. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat incumbent, decided to run for the redrawn 34th district which is more friendly for Dems.
In February, Trump gave De La Cruz a “complete and complete endorsement”. She has a significant cash advantage partly as a result.
I care less about the outcome of the De La Cruz race than I do the candidate. The Old GOP was older, more white, and more male. The New GOP is more youthful, more female, and more Hispanic.
Contrary to Democrat fears of demographic doom, this more diverse GOP is also becoming less conservative. While Senator Mitt Romney may look the part, conservative voters would rather have a Vega and a De La Cruz than a minute of Mittens.
It’s both an incredible and sometimes devastating change that we are witnessing.
It fascinates me so much that I would like to make “Meet the New GOP”, a weekly column starting with this election and continuing for a while. I hope so.