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SSJ Republicans plan candidates forum on May 7
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When Frank Aquila started the South San Joaquin Republicans he didn’t quite know what to expect.

With three to four meetings every year, guest speakers reaffirmed the positions that many in the group held and served to rally conservative support in the area. The average numbers started to grow.

And now that Aquila has built a solid base with his organization, it has taken on a new role – a sounding board for local political hopefuls and incumbents.

On Monday, May 7, local Republican candidates are welcome to take part in the group’s annual forum where they’ll be given time to lay out their platform and their goals if voters decide that they’ll best represent their ideals and their beliefs.

The event – which will be held at Chez Shari at the Manteca Golf Course – will begin with a meet-and-greet at 6 p.m. and a guest speaker will take the lectern at 6:30 p.m. followed by the candidates.

According to Aquila, anybody running for a local city council seat, including mayor positions, or a slot on a local school board is welcome to participate in the event. Board of Supervisor candidates are also welcome.

So far District 5 supervisorial hopefuls Tom Benigno and Bob Elliott have confirmed that they’ll attend, as has Manteca city council candidate Ben Cantu and Ripon council incumbent Garry Krebbs.

While it wasn’t something he expected when he first laid the groundwork for the organization, seeing events for local candidates to come together is a both a perk and a measuring stick allowing Aquila to see just how far a single idea has been able to grow.

“I had no idea how it was going to first develop when we started this,” he said. “Since then we’ve had congressional forums with 500 people and other events that have packed the room.

“It has become a strategic way to connect with the public and allow people to get to know the politicians that represent their ideals. It’s a great way for people to get involved.”

And it’s not just political forums that have Aquila thrilled with the evolution of what started out as a simple idea.

The emergence of local conservative groups – Manteca just recently announced the formation of a Republican Women’s Federated organization and the Manteca Tea Party Patriots meet twice a week – proves that putting likeminded people together yields results.

It’s something that he has noticed, and it’s something he hopes will continue as more people get involved in their local conservative groups.

“It’s kind of become the Baskin-Robbins center where people can pick the flavor that they like and figure out how to get involved,” Aquila said. “It’s a great way to see political groups grow, and hopefully it’s something that’ll continue – whether it’s local or regional or national.

“Getting involved can make a difference. That was the whole idea behind this group.

Local Republican candidates looking to get involved with the forum can contact Aquila at (209) 825-0123 for more information.