GOP donor eyes 2014 push to expand diversity

Francis Rooney, a major Mitt Romney donor and George W. Bush bundler, is planning to spend big on the upcoming elections to expand the GOP’s diversity, and he’s already set his sights on two competitive Republican primaries.

Rooney told The Hill in an interview Wednesday that he’s already contributed to the campaign of Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who running for the open Senate seat there, and is planning to back state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto over three other Republicans vying for the open seat in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

He has deep Oklahoma ties through his family’s construction business and gave $1 million to Romney’s 2012 presidential bid and $150,000 to GOP group American Crossroads last year. Though he wouldn’t put a price tag on the Senate race or other 2014 elections, he did say he’s planning to invest heavily in “compelling” races.
The Oklahoma race is on his radar, he said, partly because he believes the African-American Shannon can help grow the GOP.

“This is a compelling situation to me because of T.W.’s unique background,” he said, noting Shannon is both black and a Chickasaw. “I’m completely sold on the need for diverse Republican role models, and his family background and struggles make for a compelling story.”

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