California Hispanic Republicans, Moving Up

Raoul Lowery-Contreras | Contributor

There is a political “cabal” in California that is working every day to change the political atmosphere of California and of the USA – someday. It is directed by a handful of long-time Hispanic Republicans and is present throughout the state. The brains behind the group are Hispanic; the essence is Hispanic Republican. Its presence is growing in local school boards, water districts, city councils, and etcetera.  It helped elect its first state legislator on November 8th.

The group started five years ago when several Hispanic Republican political operatives plus one “gabacho,” (gah-bah-choh, non-Hispanic White guy), founded a group called “Grow Elect.” The goal was to locate Hispanic Republicans interested in public office, to train and help them with professional campaign advice, direction and funds.

It concentrated on Southern California because that’s where Hispanics are (10 million or more?) and that’s where there are hundreds upon hundreds of elective offices.

“Grow Elect” located candidates by searches of filings for office, through word-of-mouth among Republican county and state party people; it also searched for donors to raise campaign resources. What they found was and is a number of prospective and declared Hispanic Republican candidates that had no clue about how to run for office or what to do when they win their elections.

With few exceptions, “Grow Elect” found people who had won office on their own but who unanimously asked this question when they won:  “What do I do now?” That question is not limited to school board and local elected officials. Reportedly, former actor Ronald Reagan asked the same question when he won the 1966 California election for governor. He won by a million votes and still asked the question, “What do I do now?”

Here’s how it worked in 2016.  A bright bi-lingual San Diego single parent immigration lawyer with a mile-long list of accomplishments that started in a poor border-close neighborhood, the “barrio,” and made its way through the University of California San Diego and the University of California’s premier law school, Boalt Hall – with honors. Balancing her nascent law career and raising a daughter was not easy but one day she sent her daughter off to college. Shortly thereafter she decided to run for the Coronado school board because she thought she could help the district from where her daughter graduated.

She visited the school district offices to take out nominating papers for a two-year term of office. When asked if she had a Candidate’s Statement to file with her papers, she had no idea what they were talking about. A Candidate’s Statement is published in the voter information pamphlet every voter receives – it is critical.

We can be certain that the district clerk rolled her eyes but took the time to explain what a Candidate’s Statement was. Our candidate lit up her mobile phone and quickly composed a 200-word candidate’s statement that made some sense – she is a lawyer, after all; she paid her fees and filed minutes before the filing deadline.

Before she had any campaign brochures or literature she attended a meet-and-greet candidates’ forum where she met some Republican activists. They were astounded that a Hispanic Republican woman was running for school board in a town world famous for being a Navy community full of active and retired officers of which all but a tiny percentage are non-Hispanic whites. One of the activists contacted “Grow Elect’s” Chief Executive Officer Ruben Barrales, former San Mateo County (CA) elected county supervisor, statewide Republican candidate for State Controller in 1998, Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush and former President/CEO of the powerful Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Barrales contacted the young lady and “Grow Elect’s” process commenced.

Barrales designed, printed and mailed two campaign mailers to every voter in Coronado ($11,000 in in-kind contributions). He advised her to go door-to-door accompanied by a volunteer at all times preferably a man. She raised some modest campaign contributions from people in her church. Her door-to-door volunteers also came from the church. Juggling door-to-door campaigning, presentations to community groups like Kiwanis and Rotary groups, working on court cases and making court appearances, the newbie candidate felt overwhelmed. Nonetheless, she kept walking door-to-door and working.

Election night: Esther Valdes not only won, she won with 66 percent of the vote. “Grow Elect” had another success, another notch in its belt. In fact, Election Night, November 8, 2016, fifty – 50 – Hispanic Republican men and women that “Grow Elect” helped, won around California including in Coronado where there are barely enough Hispanic voters to count.

Grow Elect’s Ruben Barrales is crisscrossing California, recruiting more Hispanic Republicans to run for office in the April 2017 municipal elections and the midterm elections of 2018. It is called bench-building. It is called foresight; it presages victory.

By 2020, thanks to “Grow Elect,” it is quite conceivable that over a thousand California Hispanic Republican elected officials will help change how California votes in the future; how California goes, so goes the nation.

Tags : california gop hispanics raoul lowery contreras
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