The goal of a representative democracy is precisely as its phrasing suggests: to provide an accurate reflection of all constituencies at every level of the legislative process.
As demographic trends in the United States continue to change and expand across all geographic regions, political parties must adapt accordingly to provide pathways to civic participation for every community across America. Nowhere is this pathway more important than in state government – the government closest to the people making the decisions that most heavily impact people’s lives.
This concept was the driving force behind the 2011 launch of the Future Majority Project (FMP): a unique and dynamic initiative from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to recruit, identify and help elect new leaders from diverse communities to state-level office. While FMP initially served to help more Latinos enter elected office, in 2013 it grew to support new candidates from all diverse communities to ensure that legislative chambers and statewide offices across the country better represent the electorates they seek to serve.
Under the leadership of Chair and former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, Honorary Co-Chairs Governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval of New Mexico and Nevada respectively, and a board of 28 diverse, elected and impactful men and women, FMP has grown exponentially, producing new and exciting success stories every cycle. In partnership with the RSLC’s Right Women, Right Now (RWRN) initiative supporting new women candidates at the state level, the RSLC has dedicated more than $11 million to recruiting and supporting hundreds of new candidates and helped elect 229 new women and 71 new diverse candidates at the state level, including 45 who are Latino.
Since its launch, FMP candidates continue to make history. In 2012, Art Linares became the youngest Connecticut State Senator at the age of 24. The following year, State Representative Jessie Rodriguez became the first Hispanic immigrant to be elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature and Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg became the first Hispanic Republican to serve in the New Jersey State Legislature. In 2014, Evelyn Sanguinetti was elected the first Hispanic lieutenant governor ever in Illinois. And in 2015, voters elected Jason Miyares, the first Cuban-American to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates, and Shane Aguirre, the first Latino elected to the Mississippi State House.
Exactly half of all U.S. Presidents first served in their state legislatures before becoming Commander in Chief, underscoring the party growth potential that can be found in state-level office. Initiatives like FMP are critical to the process of building a strong and diverse bench of future Republican leaders and rising stars ready to ascend to leadership positions or higher office. For FMP board members, Illinois’ John Cabello now serves as the Chair of the House Republican Organization and Jose Oliva is the Florida Speaker-Designate for 2018. After becoming in 2014 the first Hispanic to hold this position in state history, Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is now running for the U.S. Senate in 2016.
Republicans currently hold a party-record 69 out of 99 state legislative majorities, with 32 lieutenant governors and 27 secretaries of state. While our party continues to grow, we believe wholeheartedly that recruiting diverse candidates as part of the process is both the right and smart thing to do. In four year, FMP has actively engaged in 40 states and visited over 30 states for recruitment meetings, candidate trainings and events.
For 2016, visits and efforts are already underway in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. There are opportunities in Kentucky to take back the state House of Representatives, following the 2015 victories of Matt Bevin and FMP candidate Jenean Hampton for governor and lieutenant governor. FMP and RWRN are actively recruiting in targeted districts to flip this last chamber in the South still under a Democrat majority. Similarly, we will target the New Mexico Senate for a majority pickup, following the 2014 GOP flip of the state House for the first time since 1952. FMP candidate Diego Espinoza is running in a top-targeted district and is already out-fundraising his incumbent-Democrat opponent.
The best way to cultivate a vibrant, well-rounded party is to recruit and support candidates from the ground up in the neighborhoods where they live to serve the communities that they love. In a country that grows more diverse every year – including a Latino population expected to be 29 percent of the nation by 2060 – the RSLC has created a new, innovative and effective recruitment model for the GOP at large. I am proud of the RSLC’s Future Majority Project and the work its doing to help grow the party’s bench of exceptional candidates ready to take the party into its next chapter. I am proud that Republicans continue to be the party of diversity and ideas that capture the needs of all Americans. And I am excited to see what more is to come in the years ahead.
Gov. Fortuño is the former governor of Puerto Rico and a member of the RSLC’s Board of Directors. The RSLC is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the country and the only national organization whose mission is to elect down-ballot, state-level Republican officeholders.