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 primetime 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 primetime 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 Ocasio-Cortez, 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 advisor 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’s has also started a federal political action committee called Defense of Freedom, to help Trump and small non-profits.
“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.