(Jim Clark) – Hispanic GOP candidates for office did exceptionally well in last November’s election. Of course we’re all very proud of Nevada Governor Brian (“no new taxes”) Sandoval’s landslide win. In addition Republican Hispanics Susana Martinez won the governorship of New Mexico and Marco Rubio the US Senate seat in Florida.
Additionally Hispanic Republicans won seven congressional seats in such diverse jurisdictions as Florida, Texas, Idaho and Washington State. Adding to that were Latino Republican wins for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in New Mexico and four elected to the Texas legislature.
So has the Democratic Party’s dominance with the Hispanic vote ended? Don’t jump to any conclusions.
In Nevada 40,000 conservative Hispanics joined a “just don’t vote” boycott in the Angle – Reid race, turned off by Angle’s ads depicting Mexicans as criminals. CNN exit polls showed that Sandoval only received 33% of the Hispanic vote while Martinez won only 38% of the Latino vote in New Mexico. Rubio won 55% of the Hispanic vote but only 1/3 of non-Cuban Latinos voted for him.
This mixed news has not been lost on GOP leadership.
American Action Network, headed by former GOP Senator Norm Coleman, recently organized a Hispanic Leadership Network meeting in Florida. The main speaker was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who told the more than 600 delegates:
“Hispanics will be the swing voters, as they are today, in swing states. If you want to elect a center-right president of the United States it seems to me you should be concerned about places like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Texas . . . places where, but for the Hispanic vote, elections are won or lost.”
He added that Republicans would be “incredibly stupid” to ignore the fastest growing population of voters. Bush proposed a four-point plan for elected officials to expand the GOP’s reach: be mindful of tone, embrace a broad agenda, appoint Hispanics to boards and judicial positions and recruit qualified Hispanics to run for office.
Writing for former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “The Americano” Angelette Aviles said: “So what now for the GOP?
Firstly the Republican Party should not depend on Hispanic elected officials to represent them as a ‘party of diversity’. Secondly, just because the party has high-profiled Latino leaders the GOP cannot suspend any genuine Hispanic engagement or outreach. Like most Americans the economy and education are the top two concerns among Hispanics; however immigration rhetoric among just a handful of Republicans reflects negatively on all Republicans regardless if they are Latino or not.”
Latino Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart revealed that he has quietly been working with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on a comprehensive immigration reform bill which would address concerns about people in the country illegally earning residency before those who followed the rules. “It solves many impossible-to-solve issues including making sure people waiting legally get preference.”
Perhaps the best thing going for the GOP with Hispanic voters is that President Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform during his campaign and then promptly forgot it as he used all his political capital on a health care bill. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally made a half hearted effort to pass another law promised Hispanics, the Dream Act, while the lame duck congress still had a Democratic majority in both houses. He failed to deliver.
We have a new Republican National Committee chair. Let’s see where he takes us on this issue.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee)