Coalition Support

GOP is building a home for Latino voters

By Jennifer Sevilla Korn
U-T San Diego
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/Apr/17/gop-latino-voters/?#article-copy
 

Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic group in California, and we now comprise 29 percent of the city’s population.

Given this new reality, no party can fully represent the American people if it fails to adequately build and maintain relationships with the Hispanic community. That is why a year ago, following the release of the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project report, our postelection review, we fundamentally reshaped our strategy for winning elections, and for building trust with this important part of the American electorate.

Our new playbook ensures we are going to communities where we have not had a presence in a long time. It means building a real and permanent year-round Hispanic engagement effort throughout the country, built to outlast any one candidate or election cycle.

What does that look like in practice? Look no further than the recent mayoral special election in San Diego. Kevin Faulconer, a Republican councilman, replaced former Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned after sexual harassment allegations.

Working collaboratively with the state and county parties, Republicans in the San Diego mayoral race tested new tactics, precinct operations and technology.

Headed into the special election, Democrats had two advantages: Democrats outnumbered Republicans in San Diego, and Democrats expected to have a higher turnout of low-propensity voters, typically young and minority voters.

To seal a GOP victory, Republicans needed to have a strong ground game.

Precinct captains were recruited and trained and Latino precincts were targeted. As a result, thousands of Latino voters were contacted. You add that to a well-run campaign and a candidate that made the Hispanic community — like all communities — a priority, and the result is success.

The lessons learned in San Diego were the same lessons learned in the New Jersey gubernatorial election.

In the Garden State, we opened two offices dedicated exclusively to Hispanic engagement. And as a result of our efforts, Gov. Chris Christie was successfully positioned to win Passaic County — the first time in history a Republican won that county. Our staffers were in Hispanic neighborhoods every day talking with voters about issues that mattered most to them. As a result, on Election Day, Gov. Christie captured 51 percent of the Hispanic vote statewide.

These races proved what we already knew: that when we show up early and often, we can make significant gains in communities and ultimately win elections. The difference now is that our engagement efforts are long term — and not limited to any one campaign or candidate. Campaigns cannot show up five months before Election Day and expect to win, which is why the Republican National Committee has made Hispanic engagement a priority for the entire party.

We are not under any illusion that there is a quick or easy path to victory in the Hispanic community. In fact, we are genuinely committed to earning the Latino vote and gaining voters’ trust.

We now have staff in 10 states focusing on Hispanic engagement. They are working diligently to strengthen our ties with Hispanic Republicans and expand our relationships with all Hispanics regardless of political affiliation.

We’re going where people live, work, and worship. We attend community events and swearing-in ceremonies, sharing our positive vision for America but, more importantly, listening to Hispanics’ concerns, their dreams and their aspirations.

To complement and supplement our efforts nationally and at the state level, we recently launched our National Hispanic Advisory Council and several state councils. Members like Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Marco Rubio, former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin and other influential Hispanic leaders are lending their expertise to develop better, more effective engagement strategies for the RNC and state parties.

Republicans should feel encouraged because we have a real opportunity to make gains with the Latino community at a time when the Democrats have treated Hispanics like an afterthought at best, and at worse, as political pawns.

People have asked me what success looks like for the Republican Party in the Hispanic community. Success is a permanent year-round engagement effort that reaches every community and treats Hispanics with the respect they deserve as valuable members of American society.

As Sen. Rubio underscored recently when discussing our efforts, “It’s important our party listens to voters’ concerns and shares our proven principles, offering real solutions to the issues facing all communities.”

When we can demonstrate that we are truly listening, sharing our message and offering solutions for people in every community, not only will we win elections, we will be a party Hispanic Americans and all Americans are proud to be a part of.

Sevilla Korn is a native of California and is the RNC’s deputy political director and national director of strategic initiatives.