Portlander Xander Almeida stands out at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He wears a meticulously waxed mustache and a suit covered with buttons for politicians like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. He’s also Hispanic, pro gay rights and 31 years old. He told OPB’s Think Out Loud that he came to the convention with the mission to shape the party for his generation.
On Choosing The GOP:
Ten years ago, Almeida moved to Portland as a member of the Green Party.
“I thought it would be really great to live in a liberal Mecca utopia, but after four years it completely changed my idea for the type of politics I wanted governing,” he said.
He said he grew disenchanted when he saw regulations hindering business and decided it was time for a change. “In 2008 as I volunteered at the Pink Pistols booth at the Gay Pride Festival, I went to the Multnomah County Democrat booth and registered as a Republican.”
On Donald Trump:
“I don’t know the man personally so I can’t attest to his character. All I can judge him on is what has come out of his mouth into the microphone. And those types of things disturb me greatly.”
He said that his Hispanic heritage shapes the way he views Trump. Almeida said his Mexican immigrant grandfather fought for the U.S. in World War II. “To say that these people have never done anything good for this country is absolute nonsense.”
On Millennial Issues:
“We’re a lot more socially liberal than our older counterparts,” he said.
He and a group of friends attended the Oregon Platform Party Convention to fight against anti-LGBT language.
He’s also committed to drug reform. “We’re much more concerned with making sure our jail isn’t full of petty drug offenders,” he said. “I’m really happy the state of Oregon legalized marijuana.”
On Oregon Politics:
Instead of watching the national stage, Almeida said he’s focused on the home front. “I feel like local politicians have much more control over my life, so I’m looking at those right now.”
He said it’s essential for Oregon to develop a stronger Republican voice:
“If you have a one party rule in the state, there is no accountability. There is none. There is no freedom of ideas because any idea a Republican brings up is shot down, even if it’s a good one.”
He plans to vote for Republican candidate Bud Pierce in the Oregon gubernatorial election.
On Why He Stays:
Despite his disagreements with some of the GOP platform, Almeida plans to stick around. “The only way you can affect the party is by being a part of the party. If you leave the party you have no say in the party anymore.”
He will continue to go to these conventions in the future, he said.
“I’m going to start having these conversations with more people. The Republican party was built on small government and it was built on equality. That’s what the party was founded upon. Just because the party has drifted away from that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to fight for the party I believed in.”