The man in charge of the Republican message in Broward County eagerly exited his black Chrysler, cellphone to his ear. Nattily attired in South Florida chic in sport coat and jeans on this Saturday afternoon, Richard DeNapoli exuded youthful determination.
“I’ve been very busy, very active,” said DeNapoli, 35, of Hollywood, elected two years ago as chairman of the Broward County Republican Executive Committee. He had just come from the opening of a new GOP Action Center in the southwest section of the county, an area where “we’ve had a lot of demand.”
Sipping hot coffee, DeNapoli talked calmly of some tough numbers facing Broward Republicans.
“We are outnumbered in the county by a ratio of 2-1,” He said. Fifty-two percent of voters are registered Democrats, 25 percent are Republicans, and the rest are independents.
The county GOP gained virtually nothing in the state’s recent redistricting. Most political divisions are still skewed to Democrats, though districts to the east are more evenly split. Still, virtually no Republican candidate is a shoo-in.
DeNapoli is pushing the party to attract new converts. As of Aug. 31, he said, the Republican tally jumped by 14,269 voters.
Unassuming but confident, the local GOP leader won the party chairmanship by four votes and scoffs at bickering emails.
He said he is particularly proud of one plank in his eight-point party-building program. He devised a “precinct letter,” sent by party members to “strategically sign up voters.” It’s more of a friendly letter than a sign-up form, he said, and it is drafted and mailed by party members to ramp up personal contact.
DeNapoli’s agenda also advocates party unity, technology, membership growth, fundraising and committees for voter registration and Jewish outreach, among others.
Married in 2011 and the father of a five-week-old son, DeNapoli was president of the Republican Club of Greater Hollywood when he ran for the top rung of the county GOP ladder. He had previously served as county party treasurer.
A former lawyer and prosecutor now employed as a trust officer for a private bank, DeNapoli and his Lithuanian wife, Brigita, were wed in DeNapoli’s ancestral land of Italy and toured the country before returning to America.
He said the party chairmanship “is like a second full-time job,” but he takes to family and political life with equal gusto. And his wife, he said, “is very understanding.”
The youthful leader still adheres to some old-time political values. “Knocking on doors” to meet voters face to face is particularly important for candidates, he said. “It’s one thing when a volunteer comes to your house. But when the candidate knocks on your door, that’s more effective.”
DeNapoli said his grandfather “was very influential in leading me down the political road. He was never in politics but talked a lot about it. This perked my interest.”He’s not averse to using social media, but sometimes, he said, a handshake and a one-on-one conversation work best.
No newcomer to politics, DeNapoli has served as manager and consultant for 11 political campaigns in New York and Florida and was a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention.
He believes Democrats want to turn the United States into a European-style socialist nation.
“Republicans feel we should be the example for the world,” he said. “We should be an exceptional country, one that allows people to bring themselves up to a higher status and aspire to run businesses. What other country allows you to go from nothing to success?”
Looking at a picture of his son on his cellphone, DeNapoli said: “My little boy. What will America be like for the next generation? Will it go down because of stagnant growth or will it be the shining city on the hill?”
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