Haley, Scott, Rubio advising group pushing for GOP diversity

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Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., questions Securities and Exchange Commission, Chairman Gary Gensler during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Oversight of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)

A group intent on expanding Republican power over state-level offices is rolling out a national effort to diversify and grow the GOP, led by an advisory council featuring several potential future presidential contenders.

The Republican State Leadership Committee launched its “Right Leaders Network" on Thursday, according to information it shared with The Associated Press. Its goal is “prioritizing electing more women, as well as candidates from communities of color and diverse backgrounds.”

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The effort aims to use former state-level politicians who ascended to higher office to serve as mentors for up-and-coming GOP leaders. That, the organization told the AP, is part of the reason for its advisory council, whose leadership includes Sens. Marco Rubio and Tim Scott, as well as former U.N. Ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

All members of the council — which also includes U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and freshman U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson and Young Kim — served in their respective state Legislatures before assuming higher office.

“We are incredibly proud of the collection of trailblazers who have agreed to participate in the Right Leaders Network, and I know they will be critical in our continued mission to elect candidates all across the country that better represent the communities they serve,” Dee Duncan, the committee's president, said in a statement to the AP.

Gabrielle Chew, spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, expressed skepticism at the effort, arguing that 40% of Democratic state legislators are people of color, compared to 2% on the Republican side.

“This effort is laughable coming from a group who supports Republican lawmakers that have passed voter suppression laws targeting communities of color, employed radical racial gerrymandering to win majorities, and banned abortions after 6 weeks,” Chew wrote to the AP in an email. “To say they have work to do is an understatement, but the real issue is their racist and anti-women policies.”

Several in the group have already been put forth as the next generation of leaders for the GOP. Rubio — endorsed by both Haley and Scott in his 2016 presidential campaign — has recently met with Republicans in Iowa, although he demurred on any future presidential bid, saying he's focused on his 2022 Senate race.

Both Haley and Scott have been making the rounds through the early-voting states and high-profile GOP gatherings, including Haley's speech this week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Last year, both South Carolinians had prime speaking slots at the Republican National Convention, marking their places as possible GOP leaders in a future presidential cycle.

Former President Donald Trump's tease of a possible 2024 presidential bid has left some Republicans with uncertainty. Haley has committed to sitting it out if Trump seeks a second term, telling the AP earlier this year, “I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it.”

In a statement to AP, Scott — who has said his 2022 reelection campaign would be his last for the Senate and has deflected questions about a presidential pursuit — said the Republican Party "stands for opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds, and we are strongest when our candidates and leaders look like America.”

Earlier this year, in the GOP response to President Joe Biden's first speech to Congress, Scott suggested that Democrats are wielding race as “a political weapon."


Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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