An 18-year-old Orange County college student who came under a national spotlight while defending the secret videotaping of an instructor bashing the new president can now add this to his resume:
He’s the youngest state party officer in the California GOP.
Less than a year ago, Joshua Recalde-Martinez was busy making the rounds with the national media. As president of the College Republicans at Orange Coast College, he defended the rights of a fellow Republican student threatened with suspension for secretly videotaping an instructor calling the election of Donald Trump “an act of terrorism.”
Fellow Republicans recently elected the Costa Mesa resident to serve as the party’s Associate Delegate Representative, representing hundreds of grass-roots activists, usually in their 20s, known as GOP associates.
He is the youngest in memory to win the post, which gives him voting rights on both the state’s GOP Executive Committee, the policy-making arm of the party, and its Platform Committee, which writes the recommended platform for the party every four years.
“It’s a huge deal,” said Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party. “He’s a true activist who has been on the ground dealing with issues.”
Recalde-Martinez started high school at age 13 and graduated in three years from the online Capistrano Connections Academy. At 16, he enrolled at Orange Coast College, where he founded a College Republicans chapter and joined the school’s student government association.
Recalde-Martinez has interned or worked as a field representative for Rep. Paul Cook, Orange County Supervisors Michelle Steel and Andrew Do, Assemblyman Matthew Harper, and the conservative organization Turning Point USA. He also had a stint at In-N-Out.
The public administration major is of Mexican and Ecuadorian descent, a third-generation American trying to learn Spanish. He and his three sisters were raised by a single mother, an employee at Orange Coast, in a household that includes his grandparents.
His experience during the controversy last December involving the anti-Trump instructor led to accolades, including awards from conservative organizations, and recriminations from some liberal campus organizations.
In an interview with the Southern California News Group, Recalde-Martinez spoke about his influences, being a conservative on campus and what he wants to accomplish.
Q. What turned you on to the Republican Party?
A. “Growing up in Victorville … I saw what liberal policies were doing. The 2008 financial crisis happened and it hit that part of California very hard. That’s what piqued my interest and I started watching the news more. I grew up in a Catholic household. In one of the presidential debates I watched with my grandpa I heard that Obama was pro-choice. Then I heard McCain was pro-life. That’s what got me interested in politics.
Q. What was your first political experience?
A. (I tried) to persuade my classmates to vote for McCain during a mock election in 2008. I was about 8 years old.
Q. Don’t you have a sister who is on the other side of the political spectrum?
A. My family is sorta apolitical. My older sister is someone who leans toward the liberal side. We have a mixed household. But slowly and surely, I’m going to persuade them to the Republican side.
Q. Why did you create a College Republicans at Orange Coast College?
A. I wanted a place on campus where people could debate and have conversations on the important subjects of our time, like the presidential race. I wanted to grow the Republican Party, listen to the other side, see what they had to say and have civil discourse.
Q. Last year, you were president of the Orange Coast College Republicans when one of your members secretly videotaped that instructor. It went viral. What was your take-away?
A. I never thought I would be in that situation, ever… It taught me a lot about fighting for what I believe in.
Q. In your new role, what are you looking to accomplish?
A. Biggest thing: Grow the Republican Party. That’s one of the main reasons I ran. Being the associate delegate representative, I thought I could provide a millennial voice to the Republican Party. What we need to do is do better messaging.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I’m transferring to an online program at Arizona State University for a public-administration degree. I don’t want to take out loans to pay for my education, and I don’t want to put that financial strain on my family. I want to go to a school I know I can afford.
Q. Is running for office in your future?
A. I don’t have any current intention of becoming a politician. I’m very happy I am a political activist to create the change I want to see.