A former Miss America now wants a seat in Congress.
Erika Harold, Miss America 2003, announced June 4 she's running for an Illinois House seat and is challenging freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) in next year's GOP primary.
The 33-year-old said her candidacy challenges many stereotypes about what it means to be a Republican.
"A lot of people share conservative principles but don't vote for Republican candidates because they have a certain idea of who those people are," Harold told CBSNews.com after her announcement. "I'm African-American, I'm relatively young and I'm a woman. I'm the kind of person who can defy those stereotypes and share what our party is really about."
Since Republican senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act—which his opponent, Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson supported—the GOP has lost its traditional support from African Americans. And the GOP’s recent takeover by tea party activists and other conservatives have led some to label the party as racist and bigoted.
With the party’s recent trouncing in the 2012 presidential elections, in which Hispanics and Blacks overwhelmingly voted for Democrat Barack Obama, Republicans officials are seeking to redefine the party as being more inclusive.
Candidates such as Harold are part of that new image.
A Harvard Law School graduate, Harold is an attorney in Champaign, Ill., where she moved after working at a law firm in Chicago, according to CBSNews.
And while the former beauty queen hasn't held public office, she is no stranger to politics—she was a 2004 convention delegate for President George W. Bush and was the youth director for Patrick O'Malley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2002.
During her reign as Miss America, Harold focused her advocacy on combating bullying and violence in schools, as well as advocating abstinence from sex, drugs and alcohol. Those concerns will constitute her platform, CBS reported, as well as concerns from her legal practice, which specialized in commercial litigation, health care and representing religious organizations in First Amendment cases.
Harold told Politico that she shares widespread Republican concerns about Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Unlike some Republicans, however, particularly those in Washington, D.C., Harold has some good things to say about President Obama, with whom, she said, she has several things in common.
“One of the things that people who make the comparison often say is that he and I both have an optimistic view of the country and people’s capacity to effect change, and I think that we do share that in common,” Harold said.
“I know that he has a background in organizing communities to affect issues, and I think that’s a very empowering way to organize people. And I think that sense of optimism is something people hopefully find appealing. And I also admire the fact that he seems like he’s a great father and I’ve found it heartwarming to see pictures of his daughters growing up. They’re great representatives of their generation.”
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