BOSTON — The Republican Party launched its latest effort Thursday to sell itself to a more diverse segment of the population, acknowledging a glaring weakness in the GOP's ability to attract new voters in a country whose demographics are rapidly changing.
Some prominent Republicans expressed immediate skepticism at the party's plans to shine a spotlight on its younger, minority up-and-comers. But Republican leaders say they can help broaden the party's appeal by changing the faces of the GOP's primary messengers. At stake is the Republican Party's ability to compete against Democrats in elections for years to come.
"We have this stereotype of Republicans being old, white, Anglo-Saxon men. But there's people like me that have been out there working for years," said 30-year-old New Hampshire state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, one of four people featured in a "Rising Stars" panel at the RNC's summer meeting in Boston. "So they're like, 'Why not have her talk about our values instead of Newt Gingrich all the time?' "
RNC spokesmen have been instructed to promote Republicans like Garcia in media interviews, while other staffers have been hired to live and work in minority communities to pitch Republican values.
The newest piece is the RNC's "Rising Stars" program, which debuted with four members:
• Garcia, first elected to the New Hampshire legislature at 23.
• Karin Agness, founder and president of the Network of enlightened Women, or NeW.
• Scott G. Erickson, a San Jose, Calif., police officer for 15 years and a conservative writer.
• T.W. Shannon, an African-American and speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Four more rising stars were to be added when the committee meets again in four months.