By Robert Cyr
Three Latino GOP state senate candidates in Connecticut are part of a national GOP effort to appeal to Latino voters by recruiting Latino candidates for elected office. They face tough races but will receive support as they seek to win in districts that have long elected Democrats.
The GOP initiative is called the “Future Majority Project” which hopes to elect 100 Republicans to office in November across the country. In Connecticut, the candidates that have been chosen are Malvi Garcia-Lennon running for Windsor’s Senate District 2 against African-American veteran legislator Eric Coleman; Hector Reveron, running in East Hartford Senate District 3 against longtime state Sen. Gary LeBeau who is white; and Art Linares running for Westbrook’s open seat in Senate District 33 against Democrat state Rep. Jim Crawford, a one-term white legislator.
Lennon, who left Cuba with her family in 1968 at the age of 10, said she was excited to part of the project and was glad the party finally caught up with the growing influence of Latino politicians.
“I think Republicans had forgotten Latinos and allowed Democrats to define us to the Latino community,” she said. “Which is strange, because Latinos are a very conservative people with traditional values in family and religion
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) launched the Future Majority Project last year, its mission is to recruit and support qualified Latino and female candidates for legislative seats, Attorneys General, and Secretaries of State across the nation, according to the group’s political director, Matthew Walter. The RSLC, a nationwide group, is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders and the only national organization whose mission is to elect down ballot, state-level Republican office-holders. The Future Majority Project aims to draw on and advance the burgeoning political clout of the growing Latino population in the U.S.
The FMP is funding its 100 candidates with $3 million in a bid to get at least 30 elected. “That amount of resources can really make a difference,” Walter said. In Connecticut, because of state campaign laws, training, advice and other services with no financial value are provided but nothing in terms of direct financial support.
Walter said Connecticut is poised to make a historic vote, if it made Lennon the first Latina in state history elected to Senate. (The state Senate is also poised to welcome its first Latino Democrat Member, State Rep. Andres Ayala if he wins the 23rd Senate district in Bridgeport as expected.)
Linares, 23, is an example of an American success story. At 19, he opened a solar energy business based in Middletown which has since flourished, now servicing businesses and municipalities in three states. As a grandson of Cuban immigrants fleeing the political oppression of Bay-of-Pigs-era Cuba, he’s heard the stories of his grandparents’ exile to Spain and their arrival in the U.S., where they were finally able to build a life for themselves.
“My grandfather still calls this the greatest country on earth,” he said. “It was the belief in the American Dream that inspired me to enter this race. It’s about starting from nothing and creating something. Every generation should have the opportunity to lead a better life than the generation before.”
Reveron was not available for comment.
The FMP’s board of advisers includes U.S. Senators, representatives, governors, mayors, and a former U.S. Treasurer, Walter said. RSLC Chairman Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the GOP under Pres. George W. Bush, started the plan after working with Latino officials in the Bush administration, Walter said. It could be considered similar to an initiative launched in the 1980s called EMILY’s List that seeks to elect pro-choice women candidates to Congress and governor’s seats.
“In the next decade, elections will feature an electorate that is substantially different from that of today and is vastly different from the electorate that decided a major US election as recently as 2000,” said RSLC Chairman Ed Gillespie on the group’s website
Walter said the project will continue indefinitely and the program has already attracted 19 more members than they originally hoping for. “We need to have a long-term engagement that doesn’t come and go with the political climate,” he said. “Republicans and politicians of Hispanic descent have a deep ideological kinship involving core family values and religion. We share the belief that if you work hard in this country, you can make it. Democrats have historically had a greater share of the vote – and part of it was the Republican needing to make a more compelling case.”