Republicans are ramping up their recruitment of minority candidates in an effort to combat the demographic trends that helped hand them stinging losses in November.
Party officials on Wednesday announced the creation of The Future Majority Caucus, a group of Hispanic politicians who will advise the party on its efforts to recruit more state-level minority candidates. The caucus will be co-chaired by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The Republican State Leadership Committee last cycle launched an effort to recruit more women and minority candidates, but it only netted one Hispanic elected official nationally after November's blowout. Republicans lost big partly because women and minorities are increasingly turning against the GOP.
Ed Gillespie, a veteran GOP strategist who will help lead the recruitment effort, said that's dangerous for both Republicans and the nation. "It's not in the country's interest for one party to take a segment of the population's interest for granted and another to write it off," Gillespie said.
Martinez and Sandoval are the nation's only two Hispanic governors, running states with large Hispanic populations. Despite the governors' own ethnicity, exit polls showed that the majority of Hispanics in both states voted against them in 2010.
But Martinez said it's important to recruit minority candidates to win votes from diverse populations. "The way for the party to grow again is to elect more women and Hispanics at the local level," she said. "We need to make sure those elected officials look like the community they represent."
Sandoval said the coming immigration debate in Congress is an opportunity for the GOP appeal to Hispanics, who have increasingly trended away from the party as it took a harder line on enforcing immigration laws. Sandoval in 2010 opposed giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses. Now he supports licenses for young immigrants who qualify for temporary legal residency under a program President Obama announced last summer.
"I believe the immigration debate is going to be a strong way to attract more Hispanic candidates," Sandoval said. "I think they are going to want to be part of this immigration debate. I think it is very healthy and it is about time."
Follow Nicholas Riccardi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NickRiccardi