By: Katie Goldstein
Passion for Service and Activism
Neri Martinez is the executive director of the Future Majority Project at the Republican State Leadership Committee. She works to support and recruit women and minority candidates for state governments across the United States. Martinez is also the founder and president of Maven Strategies, a political consulting firm.
Martinez has always had a passion for public service, but her first parlay into activism was working with the Free Cuba Foundation. The Free Cuba Foundation is a non-profit that works to support the non-violent political opposition in Cuba and human rights on the island.
Martinez worked on a consulting basis with legislators in Miami before deciding to make the move to Washington D.C. to pursue campaign politics full time. In 2012, Martinez began work for the Republican National Committee.
As a part of her work with the RNC, Martinez ran Hispanic outreach in North Carolina for the 2012 presidential election. She worked for the RNC until 2013 when she transitioned to the Republican State Leadership Committee, where she works today.
Martinez is known for getting things done in her role as the Director of the Future Majority Project. The Future Majority Project and Right Women Right Now have spent over $20 million recruiting and electing over 100 new diverse candidates and over 500 new women into office.
The right woman right now
As a political committee that focuses on state-level races, the Republican State Leadership Committee Martinez works with many different county parties to focus on bringing in leaders from diverse communities to represent the Republican Party on state-level tickets.
“It’s kind of like working in 50 different countries instead of just one because you’re working in all those different states to help recruit candidates,” Martinez said.
A majority of the time, when Martinez recruits a candidate, it is the first time they have run for office. The campaigns themselves are history-making in their states. Each region has its own set of nuanced policy priorities, and Martinez finds the candidate that reflects the area’s unique preferences, personalities, and characteristics.
When asked about her role models, Martinez is quick to point out her parents. Although they are not politically engaged, they have played an important role in shaping Martinez into the successful woman she is today.
Both of Martinez’s parents were born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States. Her mother is a small business owner and her father is a reverend. Martinez says their leadership style and character is something she works to emulate.
When it comes to politics, Martinez names Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as another role model. Ros-Lehtinen is the first Latina ever elected to Congress and Martinez views her as a leading figure in the community.
The importance of local politics
Martinez feels that local elections tend to gain less attention than those on the national level.
“State-level politics and policies are really the drivers behind the policies that rule people’s’ lives,” Martinez said. ‘It is incredibly important to have more women and more diversity at the table at the capital to discuss the best policies for everyone in the state.”
When Martinez was talking about the importance of state and local elections, she emphasized that for the voter and the constituent, they are more likely to personally know their state representative. For Martinez, this makes candidate recruitment and voter outreach more impactful.
Diversity and advice
Martinez points out that the recruitment process for a candidate varies based on each individual and also according to gender. Men tend to be easy to recruit for office while women tend to be harder. Martinez has to dig deep to convince them. Often, the reason that women hesitate to run for political office has to do with a lack of a perceived readiness. This is a psychological hurdle, but Martinez emphasizes that she does not ask a candidate to run if she feels that they aren’t ready.
“Ultimately, it just takes a lot more work for women to come to terms with their own readiness and ability and then run for office,” Martinez said.
According to Martinez, when female candidates decide to run, they fair really well. In many cases, even better than male candidates. Martinez will even go as far as to set up a type of mentorship with another woman who has been elected or works at the capital so potential candidates can see what it would be like to become a policymaker.
Martinez has a powerful piece of advice: just go it. Martinez says to look for the policies you’re passionate about and how you want to engage politically. You only get so many hours in a day and Martinez suggests spending them doing something you’re passionate about.
The question that Martinez gets asked most often in her career is what does she look for when recruiting a candidate. Martinez says the answer is simple: authenticity.
“Authenticity does not mean you should just say anything that’s on your mind, or say anything that is unprofessional,” Martinez said. “Strive to be your most authentic self because that is what will distinguish your leadership from your opponent. The voter will pick up on whether you [the candidate] are authentic or not.”
When talking to Martinez, it is clear that she is passionate about what she does. She strives to create diverse local elections and in turn, to create a diverse state and local legislature. Martinez is passionate about creating a comprehensive policy that really helps people.
“You need to reflect the full diversity of the country,” Martinez said. “Diversity isn’t just ethnic diversity or religious diversity. It’s not just about identity politics If you will. Diversity is about having a diverse set of views and perspectives with a passion for policy work.”
More about the Author: Katie Goldstein is a Sophomore at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Goldstein is studying Political Communications at LSU’s Manship School with hopes of working in the policy arena upon graduation. She currently is Vice President of the award winning LSU Public Relations Student Society of America and is a proud member of the #MovementMakerTribe.
Disclaimer: This blog is non-partisan. The views reflected in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of myself or Terri Broussard Williams.
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