WASHINGTON -- Republicans seeking to increase their party's diversity in Congress and challenge a media portrayal of the conservative movement as "bigoted" launched a PAC on Monday to support candidates "as diverse as our nation."
That's the goal that Catalyst PAC describes on a website soliciting contributions to support candidates who "look a little different from what's thought of as the 'traditional' Republican."
"The GOP understands that it's hit a low point as far as its ability to represent the American public," said communications director Albert Eisenberg, who described the group as the first of its kind on the Republican side. "Our brand is really toxic."
The PAC joins only a handful of Republican fundraising groups that have focused on candidates' identity as much as the issues that they support, a strategy that has proved much more successful for Democrats.
The effort also underscores a movement within the GOP to respond to tensions surrounding race, gender and ethnicity that have come to define partisan politics under President Donald Trump.
Republicans are seeking to recover from House losses in last year's midterms partly through attempts to recruit a more diverse slate of candidates in 2020.
Guests at a private kickoff event Monday included National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer and Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Will Hurd of Texas.
The event comes days after just eight House Republicans -- Brooks and Stefanik among them -- voted for an LGBTQ equality measure, and the Trump administration rolled out a proposed overhaul of the country's immigration system that some Democrats said was racist.
While the 2018 midterms ushered in the most diverse class of Democrats in congressional history, the current 197-member House Republican Caucus had just 13 women, while nine members were either Native American, African American or Latino. Republicans are working to increase those numbers in 2020, and are touting the diversity of the candidates who have already entered the race.
"The GOP cannot be comfortable merely finding voters and candidates in country clubs and rural areas," said Catalyst PAC board member Steve Cortes, who served on Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council. "Our vision empowers all Americans, from racial minorities to urban millennials."