For GOP Diversity, Look to the States [Opinion]

PHOTO: A bilingual sign stands outside a polling center at public library ahead of local elections on April 28, 2013 in Austin, Texas.

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OPINION

With only eight months until Election Day, President Obama’s approval ratings are dipping and Obamacare’s flaws are dominating the headlines. All signs should point to Republican success. But will that be the case?

History shows that we can be successful at the state level but only if Republicans recognize changing demographics and continue to make adjustments in how we recruit candidates, communicate our policies and empower these new voices within our party.

In 2012, President Obama was reelected despite exit polling that revealed voters were continuously in favor of Republican policies. Over and over, however, we are seeing a trend on the state level where those same voters eagerly cast their vote for the Republican candidate. For example, in Illinois, John Cabello, a police officer and detective, ran on a platform of public safety and service to community. He connected with voters and was sent to the state house, his critical victory a blow to the Democrats’ control.

By electing candidates that reflect the full diversity of America, we put into place those leaders that can move through the ranks and provide a much-needed perspective on the federal level. While Cabello was defying the trends in Illinois, Marilinda Garcia was running to become a state representative in New Hampshire, which Obama won convincingly 2012. She too emerged victorious and announced this past fall she would run for the state’s second congressional seat in what has become a very competitive race.

Voters like Republican policies. We don’t need to change our principles to attract new supporters to our party. To win future elections we must examine not only what we say, but how we say it and who delivers our message. In short, we need more John Cabellos and Marilinda Garcias.

Republicans must increase their chances for success by amplifying our recent efforts to recruit new, diverse voices within our party and bring more women to the table. We must continue to identify, train and support strong future leaders that better reflect America’s changing demographics if we want to continue seeing victories at the ballot box.

A number of these efforts are already underway. The Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) Future Majority Project spent more than $5 million in the 2012 cycle in support of 125 new Hispanic candidates and 191 new female candidates who pursued state-level office. The FMP helped to elect 15 new Republicans of Hispanic descent and 84 new Republican women to state offices across the country, including Reps. Cabello and Garcia.

We need to keep growing this diverse bench. That’s why the FMP is soon announcing new leadership to help Republicans go beyond recruiting and investing in women and Hispanic candidates to include African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Indian-Americans, Native-Americans and many other diverse ethnicities.

By investing much needed funds, training, mentorships and digital resources, 2014 may see the rise of more diverse Republican candidates like Hispanic small business owner Monique Trudnowski. who is running for state legislature Washington. There’s also Michael Fields, a young African-American high school teacher running in Colorado’s General Assembly. Both are first-time candidates with deep ties to their communities.

Much good work has already been done. Republicans currently hold 59 of 99 state chambers, 28 secretaries of state, 28 lieutenant governors and 24 attorneys general seats. These leaders support our 29 Republican governors (four of whom are women and four are of diverse ethnicities) who are daily enacting policies that grow our economy, create jobs and protect our personal freedoms.

These are good steps in the right direction. But we will do more and when that happens, our party, and more importantly our nation, will flourish.

Luis Fortuño served as governor of Puerto Rico from 2009 to 2013. He is now a partner at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP and serves on the board of directors of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

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Viewing America’s population through the lens of diversity, we will cover the social, cultural and political impact of various racial and ethnic groups in this country.

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