In an effort to win over younger voters, several Republican candidates vying for statewide offices spoke at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, George P. Bush, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn were among the guest speakers at the convention, which was held at the Student Activity Center. While many candidates appealed to convention attendees for their votes, they also stressed the need for the Republican Party to modernize.
“There’s no doubt that we can win, but, in order to do that, we have to let go of the stale tactics of the past,” said Skot Covert, College Republican National Committee co-chairman. “How could a party that uses out-of-date, behind-the-times technology expect to be competitive with millennials, the very generation that is the most technology-savvy generation to live?”
According to Covert, the Texas GOP is making significant changes to become more competitive with young voters, including incorporating social media into Republican campaigns.
Covert said many young voters agree with the Republican Party on a lot of issues, such as limiting the scope of government and decreasing federal debt, but the party seeks to correct misconceptions that some young voters have about the party.
“There is a huge void — a conservative void — on campus,” Covert said. “Because of that, our generation thinks very, very poorly of the Republican Party.”
Bush, a candidate for Texas land commissioner, said he met students on both conservative and liberal campuses while traveling for his campaign.
“[Students] had told me that I’m the first aspirant for political office to come on campus, so this has got to change,” Bush said.
Sen. Cornyn said his re-election campaign staff is working to combat the efforts of the Democrat-supporting group Battleground Texas to make Texas a blue state.
“If we don’t meet that with equal force and equal organization, then it could well happen, not in 2014, maybe not even in 2016, but in 2020 and beyond,” Cornyn said. “If Texas delivers all of its electoral votes [to the Democratic Party], let’s say in 2020, we’ll never deliver another a Republican president again in my lifetime.”
Bush said Republican politicians need to be more visible and stressed the importance of using social media, such as Twitter, to increase local community participation, especially among demographics who historically tend to vote Democrat.
“In my campaign I created some controversy, as a Hispanic Republican, that we don’t have to sell out our conservative principles to win the Hispanic vote,” Bush said. “They are often — as the saying goes — Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”
John McCord, Texas GOP political director, said the party will rely less on phone banking and increase focus on voter registration and outreach efforts in ethnically diverse communities.
“We’re trying to build a much more ground-up approach and talking with folks about what matters to them instead of driving a statewide narrative,” McCord said. “Our goal is for these field offices to not go away after November but to keep the field offices, keep the staff and to have a fully operational ground game to keep these offices around long before 2016 rolls around.”
According to Bush, to win votes, the party needs to take a more active role in the community.
“We can’t just show up right before elections,” Bush said. “We have to show up after elections to have a meaningful conversation with the community.”