State Republicans gathered in common cause Friday, in meetings and seminars, gearing up for what they hope will be a successful election year in 2016.
The first day of the quarterly Republican Party of Florida meeting in Orlando kicked off with state representatives, committee men and women and county chairs taking a crash course in campaign finance, held by finance expert Nancy Watkins. Watkins showed Republicans the ropes of campaign contribution limits and basic finance laws. Around 100 showed up to the meeting, asking Watkins specific questions on what was and was not permissible in the world of campaign finance.
As the day went on, once large meetings became smaller. Some 30 Republicans gathered around a large table to talk minority engagement and how to better mobilize the black and Hispanic communities to turn out and vote Republican in 2016.
State representatives had a lengthy dialogue about going door-to-door to meet with prospective voters. Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, talked about using faith-based initiatives to help identify with voters.
The church is the key to mobilizing Republicans, he told fellow committee members during the minority engagement seminar.
Hill, who was first elected to the Florida House in 2013, is the Houses only black Republican.
But despite the color of his skin, Hill says his beliefs should resonate with all Americans.
You will never hear me use the term 'African-American.' I am an American, he told committee members.
Minority Committee Chair Michael Barnett (who also serves as chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party) said getting involved in the community will be a big step in reaching out in 2016.
It cant always be about votes, he told Sunshine State News. Its about forming a relationship with a group of people who are really just beginning to trust Republicans.
Barnett said once people begin to feel they can trust Republicans, theyll then be more likely to vote red.
RPOF Hispanic director Alex Garcia agreed. He told SSN community involvement would be a critical step in translating votes during the next election cycle.
Theres no secret sauce [for success,] he said. Its engaging the community and then knowing who the community is. You cant engage a community without knowing who the community is.
State Republicans also learned how to deal with the media in a seminar held by public relations pro Sarah Bascom, who warned them of some of the pitfalls in dealing with reporters. She advised members to always have a plan and to stay on message no matter how dire a crisis may be.
As the day went on, state Republicans went back to some of the familiar parts of each quarterly meeting. They split into their various caucuses and raised issues on a countywide level.
Still, the meeting took off and went running at a feverish pace. RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who took over the reins of the party earlier this year, said the partys mission is clear: get a Republican elected to the White House in 2016.
Today we are not only united for our quarterly meeting, but we are united to send a clear message that our party has a firm vision to make the difference in electing a Republican as the next president of the United States, he said.
The meeting continues through Saturday.