Teen advises GOP on ways to attract younger voters
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News March 1, 2013 12:02PM
Charlie Kirk Founder of Turning Point USA talks to local Republicans at The Aurora Township Republican Lincoln Day Dinner at Gaslite Manor in Aurora, IL on Thursday, February 28, 2013 | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 4, 2013 6:20AM
AURORA — A teenager took to the podium Thursday night to tell Fox Valley Republican leaders what the party needs to do to reach younger voters.
Charlie Kirk, leader of a conservative youth movement and founder of Turning Point USA, was the keynote speaker at the Aurora Township Republican Central Committee’s 56th Annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Gaslite Manor.
“My economics teacher wrote something on the board I’ll never forget,” said Kirk.
“She wrote profit is evil. I stood up to say profit is what gets our society going and she told me to go out to the hallway if I disagreed with her. I was infuriated and compelled at that moment.”
Kirk said he began to realize how many other students across the country did not have the “intellectual ammunition and confidence” to “fight back” when teachers and textbooks push liberal ideals.
Kirk, of Wheeling, founded Turning Point USA when he graduated from high school last June. Kirk said in July he called the Romney presidential campaign to suggest they utilize the social news website “Reddit” to reach young voters.
“I told them ‘you guys have to invest time, energy and resources into the website … 92 percent of all users are of the age of 19 to 29.’ They said they’ll think about it,” he said.
Kirk said in August President Obama held a live Reddit session and “Not only did he do well, he crashed it. It put Obama on a pedestal with youth that he can crash a website.”
“The GOP does not need to become more moderate, we need to modernize,” he said to applause.
Aurora Township Republican Chairman John Gaglione said they invited Kirk to share the message he’s taken on the national level, including appearances on Fox News.
But one of the chief reasons Aurora Republican leaders gathered was to unify and support the candidates running in the April 9 local elections.
Gaglione told party loyalists he has his own race for Aurora Township clerk.
“We are faced with some really serious challenges in Aurora Township,” Gaglione said.
Gaglione said a candidate with “little known” about him, challenged the incumbent in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Aurora Township clerk and won. Ken Christy, president of the Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers, bested incumbent Herb Hill in the Democratic clerk contest.
“I thought the incumbent was going to win,” Gaglione said. “It turns out the candidate is the president of one of the most powerful and largest unions in the state of Illinois. We are going to have to mount an effort to beat the machine.”
Gaglione said rather than have a primary, the Republican Party selected a slate of candidates for the April ballot by holding a caucus, as it has done traditionally since the party was formed.
Gaglione said the purpose of the annual dinner is to unite on a local level. “It is where everything starts,” he said.
At the close of the dinner, newly elected Kane County Coroner Rob Russell introduced the candidates for Aurora Township offices: Al Heriaud, supervisor; Gaglione, clerk; Davis Offutt, assessor; and trustee candidates Harry Crowcroft, James Heriaud, Joan Solms and Don Duve.
“It is going to take our effort to get them in,” Russell said.