My Experience With GOP "Outreach"

Posted: Mar 18, 2013 7:47 PM

In Guy's excellent post below, he mentions that the report's "authors call for redoubling efforts to recruit and attract strong female, ethnic and young Republican candidates and surrogates."  Indeed. Perhaps my own experience with a state GOP would shed light on that effort.  As a precursor, I'd mention that it was, admittedly, the GOP in California -- no longer one of our strongholds. Nonetheless, for people of good will trying to improve the party's recruiting, it may still be relevant.

I concluded that big part of the problem -- at least in California several years ago -- is that a state party is sometimes controlled by leaders who would rather be in charge of an organization that can meet in a phone booth than have a bigger, more inclusive party where their own power base might be threatened.  This matters, of course, because state parties determine who comes up in the "farm team" and ultimately can be ready to run for House or Senate.

Not long after I arrived in California, I began to try to get involved in state politics.  Aside from some of the state leaders of the California Federation of Republican Women, the prevailing attitude seemed to be "Well, we don't really know you."  My response, in essence, was: "OK, so get to know me.  Here's my resume, here's a CD with a variety of television and radio clips, here I am -- ready to tell you anything you want to know." Mind you, I wasn't asking for anything; I simply wanted an opportunity to work for free -- to speak and advocate on behalf of Republican values and a Republican party that was falling into disrepute.  Despite meeting two different former chairmen of the state party, despite being championed by one of the party's bigger California donors, despite participating in a political training program for Republican women, I could never seem to break through an insular, small-minded attitude best summarized as "If I don't already know you, you're obviously not worth knowing."

This is a shame if Republicans are truly interested in recruiting women, because there was a point in my life when I would seriously have considered running for office (now I have small children, so obviously they come first).  What's more, I had access to a decent donor network, have been trained in how to fundraise and how to communicate, have a public policy background, experience on three US Senate campaigns, decent educational credentials, and a relatively boring past free of any scandal.  And yet I couldn't seem to get anyone to pay attention or take me seriously.  And I wonder how many others like me there are out there . . . 

Perhaps this dysfunction is limited to California --I don't know.  But to the extent that the GOP really is serious about encouraging women and other less-traditional-Republican candidates to participate, its leaders will need to be both willing to come out of their "comfort zones" and able to identify and recruit potential talent that doesn't necessarily come from the same old predictable places.

Kudos to Reince Priebus and the national leadership for confronting the issues head-on and really trying to make a difference.

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