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Party cannot win if it won't compete for voters

How did Chris Collins lose the election as Erie County executive? After all, Collins did what he promised to do, including keeping taxes low and improving the control board from "hard" to "soft." Collins' flap with the culturals hurt but the bigger problem was the dysfunctional Republican Party. Let's examine how it's broken and how to fix it.

There are 138,000 more Democrats than Republicans in Erie County. Why should anyone consider enrolling as a Republican? Are you kidding? The Republican Party produced Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Reaganomics was practically invented by our own Jack Kemp.

Low taxes, a strong dollar and the freedom to achieve the American Dream: It's a message people can understand, it's a message that works and it's a message that wins elections.

So why isn't Erie County teeming with Republicans? Simple. We don't ask. We haven't had a countywide enrollment drive for Republicans in more than 25 years. Within the party structure, there are committee vacancies aplenty throughout Erie County. At the end of 2011, there were almost 90 committee vacancies in the Town of Tonawanda -- a former GOP stronghold. Such vacancies weaken the grass-roots organization of our party and have an adverse effect on voter turnout.

Kemp was fond of saying, "The purpose of a political party is to offer an agenda for governing." We need to show people the Republican agenda: freedom, opportunity, dignity for every human life -- from conception to natural death. We need to compete for every election everywhere.

It was an embarrassment that the Republican Party did not field a candidate for mayor of Buffalo in 2009 -- the first time there was no Republican candidate in 150 years. Spare me the talk of enrollment differentials. Kemp and Rep. Jack Quinn Jr. routinely carried the Town of Cheektowaga overwhelmingly during their congressional terms. We Republicans lose more than an election when we don't contest elections.

As Republicans, we should go after every vote in Erie County -- including Buffalo. It's a historical fact that African-Americans once voted enthusiastically for the Republican Party "because of Mr. Lincoln." It can happen again. Every newly arrived immigrant in Erie County needs to know about the Republican Party. We need to meet them -- love them -- and once we do that, we can and will earn their vote.

The business community needs to stop whining and get into the game. Are you shocked that Mark Poloncarz opened his administration to the unions who helped elect him? Hello! Welcome to Buffalo! If business leaders want change, then get on board with your time, your ideas and your money. We owe it to the Republican Party that has served this community and this country so well for so long. If not us now, then who will and when?

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Russell Gugino was Western New York coordinator of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.