GROW Elect aims to reach Latino Republicans

Ex-White House aide Ruben Barrales leads effort

SAN DIEGO - The effort to recruit Latinos into the Republican Party has intensified in San Diego in light of the GOP's poor showing among minority voters last November.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney admitted his party's failures during his first post-election interview earlier this month.

"We weren't effective in taking my message primarily to minority voters -- to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, other minorities," Romney said.

In San Diego, Republicans lost several big races. Now, a new political action committee aims to help Republicans increase their reach to minorities.

"We need to do a better job of including all Californians and reflecting the demographic changes that are happening. Latinos will become the single-largest ethnic group in California before the end of this year," said Ruben Barrales, president and CEO of GROW Elect.

Barrales, a former White House aide and former president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, hopes GROW Elect will help Republicans reach out. Barrales, whose parents were both born in Mexico, is now the first president of the group.

The promotional video on the GROW Elect website displays the thoughts of many Latinos when it comes to the Republican Party.

"The Republican Party doesn't exist in our community," says one woman in the video.

"If you want to get ahead in politics, you better be a Democrat," says another young man.

The video admits there is a huge disconnect when it comes to the GOP and minorities. When it comes to controversial issues like immigration, the two groups are often at odds.

Barrales said core ideals of the GOP remain the same. However, the attitude is changing.

"It's definitely a move to make the Republican Party more reflective of the state and I don't know if you call it the middle," Barrales said. "I call it just making sure the Republican Party represents California more effectively."

Barrales knows this will be a long-term effort.

Lorena Gonzalez, local labor leader and candidate for the 80th Assembly District, said she commends the group's effort. However, she is doubtful of their success.

"Until the GOP fundamentally changes their views about immigrants, quality jobs and healthcare, they are going to continue to lose the Latino vote," Gonzalez said.

GROW Elect says since its formation in 2011, it has helped 30 Latino Republican candidates get into office.

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