How Hard Is It To Recruit High Schoolers Into The El Paso Republican Party? (Really Hard)

Oct 5, 2016

El Paso High School Republicans President Christian Samaniego and El Paso County Republican Chair Adolpho Telles at GOP debate watch party.

Millennials are now as large of a political force as Baby Boomers and that could determine this Presidential election. But according to the Pew Research Center to the Republican party they may be a lost generation.
One high school Republican is working to change those perceptions and recruit El Paso high schoolers into the GOP.

For many, high school is difficult in the best of times, fitting in and making new friends.  Well imagine all of that with the added responsibility of recruiting classmates into the GOP. Christian Samaniego is the President of the High School Republican Club in El Paso and he said it’s tough.

“There are always people that are going to give you a mad face just for the fact that you are Republican. They might not even hear anything you have to say and they just pre judge you by your party.” Samaniego said. 

There are Republican clubs in high schools all over Texas but Samaniego said recruiting is that much harder in El Paso– one of the state’s biggest Democratic Party strongholds.

"Young people tend to have very liberal values" Samaniego said "It is a challenge that we face right now trying to recruit new high school students." 

Saddling the US/Mexico border; El Paso County is 82.2 percent Hispanic, one of the highest percentages in the state. Samaniego said Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s statements on Mexicans and immigration have made his club a tough sell to El Paso students.

“People would take that as an offense” Samaniego said “He just needs to express himself where are he doesn’t offend as much people.”

A 2014 Pew Research study found that nationally Millennials are considerably more liberal than previous generations. The Republicans own autopsy review that followed their loss in the 2012 Presidential election found the party must change their 'tone' on social issues. Samaniego said Republican Candidate Donald Trump may not have been taking note.

“People here in El Paso they always identify Republicans racist what not.” Samaniego said. 

Samaniego only started the 10-member strong club in recent months. He said shared religious values are probably key to the party’s appeal in the region. According to more than 57% of people living in El Paso County identify as Christians.

“The only way I think is or reason why it would appeal to other people is if we have the same values  and I do definitely think that there are people that have the same core values as us." Samaniego said "We are conservative. I my self I am a Christian man."

Samaniego said his club is working to change young people’s impressions of the party and planting seeds for future supporters. As Samaniego notes, religious and conservative values often get stronger with age.

“When they have settled in and have their own family they really think about their kids and their future and that is when they start realizing and maturing. I think as you become older you become more concerned about your community." Samaniego said. 

Samaniego said he’d like to see the Republican Party do more youth outreach and work harder on changing its image, until then he is keeping up the fight.

“We are not that outcast of the young. But I really think that it is a struggle and I think we can absolutely get the people that we want to."