A retiring Republican lawmaker warned her party to make an effort to attract voters beyond white men — or face electoral ruin.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has served Florida’s 27th Congressional District since 1989, but she sees signs that her district is turning away from the Republican Party, and maybe for good, reported NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
“The young people rejected the Republican Party,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There’s really no other way to say it. Suburban women left our party, and minorities did not see us as a welcoming voice. You just have to show people that you care, and we’re not even willing to do that. We don’t go to those neighborhoods, we don’t go to suburbia, we don’t talk to women — we’re not doing anything to appeal to those groups.”
Her Miami-based district, which is 43 percent Cuban-American, backed Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by nearly 20 points in 2016, and Democrat Donna Shalala last month won the seat Ros-Lehtinen is giving up.
“I’m not saying that I’m leaving because Donald Trump got elected,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I’m a Republican, but I did not vote for Donald Trump. I’m a Jeb Bush Republican, I’m a George W. Bush Republican. We had a lovely Mass for Bush 41, and I’m thinking, ‘Boy those speeches. Can they really be made this day in age?’ Things have changed. My party has changed.”
She said Republicans have a problem, and it can’t be fixed until they broaden their appeal beyond white men.
“We need to pay attention to the changing demographics of our country,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We have not been attuned to that. We have been appealing to one certain section of America. I don’t know what you want to call it. The white, male conservative is definitely getting a lot of issues thrown their way.”