SAN DIEGO - She is a new leader of the Republican Party, but Francis Barraza is not what many would expect.
Barraza, a 28-year old Latina, is now the executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego County. She said she is not a newcomer when it comes to local politics.
"I might not be the typical face, but I've been doing this for a long time," said Barraza, a Chula Vista native.
Barraza has been an active Republican ever since she could vote. She previously served as the party's finance director in San Diego.
Democrats won in key races statewide and locally, including Democrat Bob Filner's win over Carl DeMaio in the San Diego mayoral race.
Republican Brian Bilbray also lost the 52nd Congressional District in a tight race against former port commissioner Scott Peters.
"We really need to grow the party," Barraza said. "In order to do that, we need to get out there … visiting people where they live, in the environments they choose to be in."
Barraza said she also plans to focus on communication, including revamping the party's website and strengthening its social media platforms.
Barraza said her Republican background comes from her father's military roots and her belief in strong national security -- an ideal that strengthened after the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.
Republican Party of San Diego County Chairman Tony Krvaric said Barraza's appointment has less to do with a new direction of the party and more to do with her work ethic. In a press release, he said Barraza is "the right person to quarterback our efforts."
"We promote people based on merit. She's done an excellent job. We don't look at any of those other qualities … other than does that person do a great job," Krvaric said in an interview with 10News.
Barraza knows Republican views on issues like immigration do not sit well with everyone, but she hopes to reach out to young people looking for work during these tough economic times.
"The millennial generation is experiencing terrible unemployment and I think we should really look to the Republican Party because they offer more of a free market approach where businesses can actually grow and flourish and create more jobs," Barraza said.
Local leaders within the Democratic Party also voiced their opinions about Barraza. Labor leader and Assembly District 80 candidate Lorena Gonzalez tweeted, "Congrats" and said, "We may disagree on issues but always nice to see Latinas move into top positions!"
Barraza graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from UC Irvine and a Juris Doctorate from UC Davis School of Law.