Winning over Latinos: Focus on benefits, not features

March 2, 2013

By Katy Grimes


SACRAMENTO — Ask any women what she wants in a purse design, and she’ll tell you it needs to be able to organize her entire life. The bag must be able to carry everything, including a spare pair of shoes and a laptop.

But a salesperson shouldn’t be the only one talking about the features of the bag. The buyer must realize the benefits for herself.

Oddly enough, this is the easy prescription for attracting more Latinos into the Republican Party — or so says Marcelino Valdez, a new face in state GOP circles. Valdez might become a very familiar face in a short time. He’s a young, straight-talking California Latino with a photogenic family. And he knows how to sell a purse.

How GOP can appeal to Latino voters

Valdez, 33, has been running to be the GOP’s Central Valley regional vice-chair, and was just voted in today.

I met with the magna cum laude graduate of Fresno Pacific University, who is an insurance broker, today at the Republican Convention. We walked and talked for quite a while, back and forth between the Hyatt Regency hotel and the Sacramento Convention Center, about how the California Republican Party has mostly neglected and stereotyped Latino voters instead of including them as an important voice in party politics.

But the problem goes both ways; Latinos have had a skewed view of Republicans as well.

I asked Valdez why Latino voters have been so reluctant to vote Republican, even though, as he said, the Republican ideology is one that most Latinos believe and live.

Valdez said for too many years, Republicans have allowed Democrats to define Republicans. Valdez said Republicans need to actually talk face-to-face with voters — all voters — inside their communities and neighborhoods, and stop talking just to Republicans.

Voter registration: GOP needs resources

One of the most important issues for Valdez is voter registration. Valdez said he decided to commit himself to work closely with the state’s central committees to make sure they have the resources needed to successfully run voter registration drives, and to reach more people with the Republican message.

Valdez thinks one reason Latinos are leery of GOP candidates has to do with the consultants the candidates rely on. He said too many consultants claim they can do the outreach and  connect with Latinos. But when it comes time to do the hard work — mixing it up with other Republicans over the need to change their unhelpful views on immigration — consultants often cave in, because they want the paychecks to keep coming their way.

On immigration, Valdez said he believes Sen. Marco Rubio’s plan is good.

Valdez said a pathway to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is something that must be faced and dealt with. And he said a pathway to citizenship is not amnesty.

Valdez told a funny story about his position on the pathway to citizenship.

When he was running for Fresno City Council in 2010, he sought the endorsement from a very influential Democratic Hispanic who was very active in the Central Valley political scene.  Valdez said he knew if he could garner the man’s endorsement, it would go a long way in convincing other area Latino Democrats to support him.

Framing immigration rules as reflecting fairness

As a professional salesperson, Valdez called many times asking to meet, undaunted by rejection. But when they met, the Democratic activist told Valdez there was no way he could endorse a Republican. Valdez said he ignored the comment and continued his pitch about his run for City Council.

The fellow listened, but then he asked Valdez how he could be Republican when the Republican Party doesn’t “want his kind.” He told Valdez that Republicans want to deport all Mexicans back to Mexico, whether they are here legally or not.

Valdez said he was taken aback by the comment. He said he asked the Democratic activist what he had done for a living prior to retiring.  The fellow told Valdez he had been a professor at a local community college.  Valdez said he asked him if he would have allowed a student to crash his class who hadn’t applied for school, paid the registration fees or registered for the class, knowing there were students waiting to be added to his class?

The Democratic activist and former professor replied that it wouldn’t be fair to those who had followed the process properly, paid the fees and registered his class.

It was a real “gotcha” moment for Valdez.

He said he told the activist that his fellow Republicans are only asking that everyone follow the legal process to enter America legally, just as students must follow the school’s registration process.

Valdez earned the endorsement.

Keep your eye on this guy.

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