GOP summit focuses on training Hispanic candidates to ‘grow the Republican family’

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Manuel Castaneda is only running for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, but Republicans in Washington already have high hopes for the candidate and others like him.

The Mexican-born owner of a landscaping business from Washington County is one of 114 Hispanics involved in the Future Majority Project, an effort of veteran GOP strategist Ed Gillespie’s Republican State Leadership Committee.

“There are certainly future Congress members, future attorneys general, future governors, and future U.S. senators and maybe even a president in there,” Matt Walter, the political director of the Republican State Leadership Committee, told The Daily Caller.

The project is an organized effort to recruit and support qualified Hispanic candidates for legislative and other seats at the state level. The idea is to develop a farm team of candidates for a party that is looking for ways to appeal to and win over Hispanics.

“The goal of the Future Majority Project is to have a long-term, sustainable effort to grow the Republican family,” Walter said in an interview.

He added: “Certainly, the RSLC in many respects helps grow and develop the farm team and get folks on the escalator to higher office.”

Last week, Castaneda and nine other top-tier recruits of the Future Majority Project from nine states gathered in Dallas for a private summit that included meetings with prominent Hispanics like Republican Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

“I felt like there was some wind behind my back,” Castaneda told TheDC. “Because you do need all the support you can get. Knowing that you’re not alone makes a big difference. And being here with the other candidates is a great thing.”

The organization’s political director said they help recruit Hispanics by informing local parties and candidates that their resources will be available to them if they run.

“I had already announced I was going to run, but this definitely reinforced for me the time was right for me to step and do this,” said AJ Feeney-Ruiz, who is running for an open seat in the Indiana State House of Representatives.

Walter said the full-day summit in Dallas was the first big event of the Future Majority Project. The candidates participated in things like filming sessions and issue briefings.

Others candidates who participated in the summit echoed Castaneda when speaking to TheDC.

“It’s a project that’s long overdue,” said Peterson Vazquez, who is running for the 138th New York State Assembly District.

“At the local level, you get baptized by fire,” said Bill Batey, an Air Force veteran running for an open seat in the California State Assembly. “You learn as you go. But for us to be successful candidates, having projects like this with mentors to make sure we’re hitting clear goals we can achieve is going to make a huge, huge difference.”

Said Dave Espinosa, who is running for a seat in the Nevada State Assembly: “We’re getting a lot of good information, a lot of good tactical information.”

The Republican State Leadership Committee — which plans to spend $35 million this election cycle — announced the formation of the Future Majority Project last summer.

The project was described this way in a memo released at its start: “Elections held in just 10 to 15 short years will feature an electorate that looks substantially different from that of today.”

The organization has allocated at least 3 million dollars for the 2012 effort, Walter said.

“A lot of these folks are new to the political process,” Walter said. “And so by just giving them the basics — the fundamentals — you can really go a long way to helping them be successful in their individual races.”

These same candidates could prove pivotal in Republicans winning or maintaining control of legislatures across the country.

“Some of these candidates are going to make the difference between whether or not their particular chamber wins the majority,” he said.

Speaking of Castaneda, Walter pointed out that there’s a tie in the Oregon House: “He may very well be one of the couple candidates that put them over the top and in the majority there.”

“Those are the kind of races where we’re going to play in more of a significant way,” he said.

While they all say they’re focused on their state races now, even the candidates acknowledge that they could be part of something larger.

“We’re not here just for one quick win and out,” Espinosa, the Nevada State Assembly candidate, told TheDC. “We’re here for a long-term sustainable majority throughout not just individual states, individual state legislatures, but the entire country.”

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