Wood­stock con­ser­va­tive lost pri­mary but won con­ven­tion slot — hopes to ‘el­e­vate all dif­fer­ent voices’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY RACHEL HIN­TON, STAFF RE­PORTER rhin­ton@suntimes.com | @rrhin­ton

Po­lit­i­cal new­comer Catalina Lauf lost her bid for a west sub­ur­ban con­gres­sional seat in the March pri­mary, but it led to the Wood­stock mil­len­nial win­ning a prime-time spot at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

Lauf, 27, billed her­self as the an­tithe­sis to lib­eral Democrats such as Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez as she pur­sued the 14th Con­gres­sional District GOP nom­i­na­tion that was ul­ti­mately won by state Sen. Jim Ober­weis, ad­vanc­ing him to the Novem­ber matchup against fresh­man Demo­cratic Rep. Lau­ren Un­der­wood.

But it was Lauf who ad­dressed Repub­li­cans Mon­day on the con­ven­tion’s open­ing night.

“It was such a shock,” Lauf said Tues­day. “You never know with these things. We were so hon­ored to have been asked to par­tic­i­pate but we didn’t fully know ... the length of time, so it was a re­ally cool ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Lauf and her sis­ter, Made­line, were fea­tured in a pre-recorded video in which they talked about their Gu­atemalan im­mi­grant mother, Luisa, their white fa­ther, Phil, and their up­bring­ing in north­west sub­ur­ban Wood­stock.

“We were watch­ing it on the couch with my par­ents, and they were in­cred­i­bly proud to see it in a prime-time spot — it was re­ally mov­ing,” she said.

De­spite her third-place fin­ish in the seven-can­di­date March pri­mary — com­ing in just be­hind state Sen. Sue Rezin — Lauf says that con­gres­sional run led to her fea­tured spot dur­ing the con­ven­tion.

“As an ar­dent sup­porter of the pres­i­dent, I think they just chose me be­cause of my plat­form and ... my back­ground,” Lauf said.

She also said she wants to counter the Democrats who have tried to “pin Pres­i­dent Trump as a racist, which is in­her­ently wrong.”

“When you look at what he’s done from his ad­min­is­tra­tion per­spec­tive, he’s putting all Amer­i­cans first, and it’s so dis­heart­en­ing to hear” Democrats call Trump a racist, Lauf said.

“I get called a racist, and I am a mi­nor­ity,” Lauf said. “It’s ridicu­lous. At some point we need to fo­cus on the sub­stance of is­sues in­stead of just hav­ing these ad hominem at­tacks . ... Those con­ver­sa­tions aren’t pro­duc­tive, be­cause they’re false, and if some­body like my­self can use my voice and my plat­form, in terms of bring­ing peo­ple who are more con­ser­va­tive from an ide­ol­ogy per­spec­tive, and say, ‘Look, this false nar­ra­tive that the Democrats paint of the Repub­li­can Party is wrong, and I’m proof of it.’”

Lauf’s de­ci­sion to run was sparked in part by see­ing the rise of peo­ple such as Oca­sioCortez, and Un­der­wood. The for­mer GOP con­gres­sional can­di­date said the rhetoric the group uses is “di­vi­sive.”

“I saw the rise of the squad and these young women from the far left as 2018 came around, and the blue wave [hit], I re­al­ized that there was such a need in the con­ser­va­tive move­ment for a counter voice to these women, and it be­came very per­sonal to me,” Lauf said. “And I thought, well, you know, if this is my turn to step up, and my duty to step up as a per­son who loves this coun­try to de­fend not only the Amer­i­can dream, but against this far left ide­ol­ogy, then I’ll do it. So I de­cided to run for Congress and ev­ery­thing kind of just hap­pened from there.”

Dur­ing a Tues­day ap­pear­ance with the Illi­nois Repub­li­can Party, Lauf fo­cused on some of the same themes she touched on dur­ing her Mon­day night ap­pear­ance, say­ing she hopes to “be some­body that can el­e­vate all dif­fer­ent voices, have a di­verse per­spec­tive here in Illi­nois and also ul­ti­mately grow the Repub­li­can base.”

Be­fore her run for of­fice, Lauf was an ad­viser to the U.S. De­part­ment of Com­merce, a role she was ap­pointed to by Trump.

Since her pri­mary loss ear­lier this year, Lauf has re­turned to work at her fam­ily’s busi­nesses, help­ing make util­ity vests, and will soon launch a pre­bi­otic for in­fants through her sis­ter’s com­pany, Be­gin Health.

She’s also stay­ing ac­tive po­lit­i­cally. Lauf said “ev­ery­thing is sort of in­for­mal” when it comes to her work with the Trump cam­paign.

Lauf said she has also started a fed­eral po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee called De­fense of Free­dom, to help Trump and small non­prof­its.

“Any way that I can use my plat­form to re­ally el­e­vate dif­fer­ent non­prof­its, can­di­dates or the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion cam­paign, that’s my fo­cus in the po­lit­i­cal space,” Lauf said.


Catalina Lauf

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