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Norwalk Republicans look to reach out

Olga Arteaga offers her perspective Wednesday at the Norwalk Inn: “I was Republican because I believe in freedom of expression, working hard, education, not the government running your life. You run your own life.”

NORWALK, Conn. – An ethnically mixed group of Norwalk Republicans met Wednesday night, in part to separate fact from fiction and gather ideas about what to do about what they said were misperceptions about their party.

“We’ve heard a lot of things said about us which we don’t believe are true,” Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano said to about 10 people gathered around a conference table at the Norwalk Inn. “Like, we consider ourselves to be a big tent organization, too – anybody is entitled to come in here and we welcome you. I think if you join the Republican Party, you’re not just a number. You’re somebody we’re going to work with. Somebody who is going to work with us, somebody we’re going to propose for offices and move him ahead.”

It was the first meeting of the RTC Outreach Committee, the reason for which was “pretty obvious,” Torrano said.

“The one thing we are lacking here in the Republican Party is a large number – and it should be a large number – of minority representation,” he said. “Clearly we have some, but we don’t have enough. The complexion of the party needs to change, both complexion-wise — meaning skin-wise — and age-wise. We have to have people a little bit younger than we have here, and we have to reach out to minorities in the community.”

Torrano polled the nine other people present for opinions.

“People think of Republicans, thinking that we have tons of money and we only think about what laws affect us and how we get richer and richer. That is not true,” Enrique Santiago said. “We want good for our communities, we want good for our kids’ education. We want good roads to drive on. But people think we are just self-interest groups.”

“The community of Latinos that we have in Norwalk, they are pretty much affiliated with the Democratic Party,” Olga Arteaga said. “For me, I think it is a generational thing. They believe the Republicans are very exclusive, they feel it is just for themselves, they do not include the minorities.”

“If they are low income, they are going to go with Democrat even if they don’t know what Democrat means. We have to get out there and tell them what the Republican Party is,” said Jamie Duque, who said that if you grow up Hispanic, you get the impression that Republicans are only out for rich people.

Felix Serrano said that national politics are creating a perception at the local level, where the issues – such as wanting a road plowed – are not partisan.

“If I had any thoughts, I think it is making that distinction,” he said. “What are we doing at the local level in bringing value to the community, and then that will just be translated into the fact that we also happen to be Republican and it makes sense because of everything we stand for.”

Torrano wanted an action plan.

Serrano said a “new group,” Latinos Unidos de Connecticut (LUC), was started by Democrats, but he was joining.

“We don’t need to recreate the wheel. There is an organization, there is something being done,” he said. “Let’s be a part of it because they’re not going to tell us we can’t be a part of it. It just happens to be a mix of Democrats and Republicans there, but if you’re not in there then you don’t have a voice.”

Jason Petrini tried to give the group the perspective of young people who came of age when George W. Bush was president.

“Most people who didn’t know politics, they knew what was going on in the country,” he said, naming Sept. 11 and the housing crash. President Barack Obama came in with a hopeful chant of change, he said.

The Y Generation is wondering what is in it for them, he said. Marketing is key, and the Democrats have young guys – Vinny Mangiacopra and Warren Peña – out on the sidewalks in SoNo recruiting people, he said.

Republicans should do that, too, he said.

“I think we could really make a difference. Most people want to get involved, they just don’t know how and why they should,” he said.

Matt Bellantoni also gave a younger perspective.

“I think maybe it’s the idea that Republicans are here for self-interest and the Democrats are more this social platform for everyone to be involved in,” he said. “In respect to stimulus packages, I know among students, student loans are huge, and affordable access to education and everything like that, but there’s this perception that Republicans are here exclusively for self-interest and not in fact for the group, which is wrong, it’s incorrect. … I think our best opportunity is to put on that ‘accepting’ front and make people realize that — young people — we are putting them in the best situation possible to do well for themselves as opposed to the government taking care of them.”

Torrano said he had heard a lot of good ideas, that the group was off to a good start. He asked those present to make introductions into groups, so that Republicans could start to mingle.

“I’m not saying we have to change our beliefs as Republicans, all I am saying is we have to explain our beliefs as Republicans, why we believe the way that we do. People are entitled to disagree with us if they want to, but I think you’ll find a lot of common ground if you do talk to people,” he said.

It’s not about an all-out assault on Democrats, he said. He just wants people to join the people involved, not join the party.

“There are people out there. We just have to get them in here,” he said. “Frankly, and I mean this sincerely, I don’t even care if they register Republicans or not as long as they think before they pull the lever. If they think about what they want to do, what they want to do for themselves, what they want in life, then I think we’re going to get ahead of the game a little bit. Again, not an attack on the Democrats. I don’t want to go after them, but I want to talk to people.”

Comments

7 responses to “Norwalk Republicans look to reach out”

  1. Makes Sense

    One major difference between republicans and democrats: republicans don’t punch the lights out of octogenarians who disagree with them.

  2. EastNorwalkChick

    It is Republicans policies that drive minorities, woman and young people away, until they change those, all the outreach in the world is not going to make a difference…

  3. rburnett

    This is laughable – after years of ignoring the people of color in Norwalk, the Republicans now want them to believe they are welcome to join the party. Of course…they now have huge voting numbers and that is the ONLY enticement for the Republicans. They (the Republicans)must think people of color cannot think for themselves. Believe me, no one will be fooled by this “outreach”. Yes, outreach for votes and nothing else.

  4. Piberman

    Republicans had the high ground in our “Golden Age” when the Party was influenced by small business citizens focused on living within our means and low taxes. Under Messrs Moccia, Wilms and Hempstead the Party changed direction and the City gave out the highest salaries of any City in the state. Norwalk Democrats – long champions of the underclass – showed their true affinities and colors by their utter indifference to NEON’s long standing difficulties. Both our local Parties are well known around the State as the weakest of any major City.
    The obvious remedy is new blood and limits to serving in the “amen chorus” Council. And a rejection of the claim that “anyone can serve on any Board or Commission” w/o qualifications. Hopefully our new ethnic majority will care more about creating an affordable City than the current politicos who have utterly failed their responsibilities to taxpayers.

  5. rburnett

    @Piberman: Do you not ever tire of singing the same old dreary song? Is there anything or anyone that pleases you or that you feel is doing a good job? Have you ever offered to pitch in and help improve those things you say are so horrible about Norwalk? If you can’t answer “yes” to the last of my questions, then please step back, take a deep breath, and give us all a bread
    k

  6. anon

    Stellar taxes with so-so quality of life makes for grumpy.

  7. EnriqueSantiago

    The republican outreach group is being created so; we can reach out to the
    community and tell them we are here. There are people in our community who
    wish to make a different but don’t know we are here to help them fulfill
    their concern and give them a voice to make a difference. And yes I am a
    RTC member and I am young Latino who wishes to make a different. Because
    Norwalk is our niche of the world and if we don’t make it better then who
    will.

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