GOP Outreach: Growing from the Grassroots

Posted: Feb 25, 2013 8:00 AM


Can the GOP counteract Democrats’ influence among key voting demographics, such as women and minorities? One Republican group is taking on this task at the state level.


Excerpted from Townhall Magazine's March feature, "Growing from the Grassroots," by Mark Kakkuri:

Rockford, Ill., police officer and detective John Cabello knows the value of proper training. With nearly 20 years on the force of the Rockford Police Department, he has been trained by other police experts on the use of firearms, crime scene investigation techniques and the nuances of criminal justice.

When Cabello, also an elected official on the Winnebago County (Ill.) Board, decided as a Republican to run for a seat in the heavily-Democratic Illinois House of Representatives 68th District, he knew that proper training again would play a role in the race. In addition to his service as an elected official and police officer, Cabello, a right-of-center Republican, also happened to be Hispanic. As such, he was exactly the kind of candidate the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), funded by individuals and small and large businesses, wanted to support as a part of its Future Majority Project—a nationwide effort to improve the Republican Party’s performance among Hispanics, women, and younger voters.

Prior to the Nov. 6, 2012, election, the RSLC sent Cabello and a host of other Republican state-level candidates from around the nation to a special training session that covered everything from running a campaign to how to deal with the media. At the training, the candidates also interacted with current Republican politicians in a Q&A or panel format, practicing how to answer questions and how to communicate a consistent message to voters.

In the end, Cabello—who ended up being temporarily appointed in August to the seat he was running for, but still had to run to hold it in November—won his race. Looking back, he credits the RSLC’s time and effort with him.

“The training paid off,” he says.

While Cabello is hardly a household name in Republican politics, “It’s races like [the Illinois 68th District] that will be critical to future successes of the Republican Party,” says Matt Walter, political director for the RSLC.

RSLC’s state successes generally followed on the heels of its training efforts. Referring to Cabello, Walter says the RSLC found a member of law enforcement who saw his state government as broken but who also wanted to get involved to help make things better.

The training to which Cabello referred was a summit that the RSLC held in Dallas, Texas, for Republican candidates at the state level. The RSLC provided Cabello and other candidates with workshops, communications, fundraising guidance, as well as introducing him to small groups and communities in his constituency. The training summit also included a series of roundtable discussions with political experts. Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was in town for the summit and provided not just training, but inspiration.

Most effective for Cabello, however, was an “independent expenditure activity of well over six figures,” which helped propel him past the well-funded Democratic machine.

Cabello won in a tough general election and says the RSLC was a great help to his campaign. He now holds a seat in the Illinois house, where Democrats hold a supermajority, as they do in the state Senate.

In addition to the independent expenditure, Cabello cites the RSLC’s training in media and fundraising as key.

With regard to media, Cabello says the RSLC advised him to pick three or four issues and stick with them in all his messaging. So he focused on getting rid of a 67 percent tax increase to fund a pension liability, $9 billion in unpaid bills that the tax increase was supposed to pay for, and jobs. ...

To read more about the RSLC's work, order the March issue of Townhall Magazine.