Top Republicans are redoubling efforts to recruit female, African-American, Hispanic and Asian candidates at the state level as part of a broader post-election effort to court voters that have increasingly abandoned the GOP in recent years.
Organizers say the Future Majority Caucus, helmed by former Republican National Committee Chairman and Mitt Romney adviser Ed Gillespie, is aimed at creating a "long-term sustained commitment" to diversity within the GOP.
Martinez stressed “the need for the Republican Party to significantly increase our outreach and support for women and minority candidates.”
“The way for the party to grow again is to elect more Hispanics and more women at the local level. I feel strongly about that. We need to look into these communities and make sure these candidates look like their communities,” she said in a conference call with reporters.
“The key for Republicans to earn the Hispanic vote is not found at some conference table or focus group in Washington, D.C.”
The group is an expansion on efforts last cycle by the Republican State Leadership Committee to recruit and back GOP minority candidates.
The RSLC spent more than $5 million and recruited 127 candidates to run, but its efforts netted just one seat across the country during a strong election for Democrats. The group didn’t outline its goals for this cycle, promising to exceed the efforts of 2012.
Gillespie, who has returned as RSLC chairman, argued that the group had succeeded in 2012 despite strong Democratic headwinds.
“We've done a good job in terms of on the down-ballot state-level races,” he said. “The last election we were able to withstand a pretty negative environment on the federal level.”
Gillespie said that 2014 could be a strong year for the GOP at the state level, acknowledging that minority turnout drops in midterm elections, which tends to benefit Republicans.
But he said there was “no doubt of the trend and where the trend line is going” in terms of big growth with minority voting populations. He said the GOP has been “a bit behind the curve” in reaching out to those groups.
President Obama’s victories in a number of swing states were propelled by strong performances with the fast-growing Hispanic population: He won the Latino vote by 71 to 27 percent over GOP nominee Romney.
Obama won 93 percent of the African-American vote, 73 percent of the Asian American vote and 55 percent of the female vote.
Many Republicans have blamed Romney’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration during the primary for playing a big role in his poor performance with Hispanics.
Republican efforts to embrace immigration reform this year in Congress stem, in large part, from a desire to erase the perception among many Hispanics that the party is anti-immigrant.
Gillespie declined to discuss his work with the Romney campaign, but he and Martinez praised Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTop Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms Rubio defends Trump: 'This whole flip-flop thing is a political thing' Rubio: Shutdown would have 'catastrophic impact' on global affairs MORE’s (R-Fla.) work on immigration reform.
But they also argued that passing immigration reform alone wouldn’t necessarily help Republicans win back Hispanic voters.
“The debate is an important one,” Gillespie said. “It's wrong to believe that Americans of Hispanic descent as voters are single-issue voters ... I do think there's an opportunity here for Republicans to make clear that we welcome people into our country and hopefully into our party.”
Sandoval said “it’s about time” that immigration reform was dealt with — and said it could potentially help the party.
“The immigration debate is going to be a strong way to attract more Hispanic candidates,” he said.