Monday, June 25, 2007

Hispanics and the GOP

When Florida Senator Mel Martinez was made RNC Chairman, there was a lot of talk about his shoring up the Hispanic vote nationwide. If GOP participation at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando this week is any indication, Martinez has failed miserably.

According to the Tampa Tribune, none of the first tier GOP Presidential candidates will be participating in an annual conference that will feature over 1,000 Hispanic elected officials - you know, the ones who have the ability to wield influence in favor of candidates. Duncan Hunter is the only GOP Presidential candidate participating.

On the other hand, seven Democratic Presidential candidates are participating:

The participating candidates will include, in alphabetical order, Senator Joe Biden (DE), Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY), Senator Chris Dodd (CT), former Senator John Edwards (NC), Representative Dennis Kucinich (OH), Senator Barack Obama (IL) and Governor Bill Richardson (NM).

NALEO extended identical invitations to the Republican presidential candidates to participate in a separate forum. All have declined to date.
Apparently, Hunter responded to the invitation after the NALEO press release.

This is an astounding snub of Hispanics, especially considering the growth of their influence on local and national politics.

[NALEO Exec. Dir.] Vargas said invitations went out in January, and the Republican presidential candidates who were invited - Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, McCain, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo and Tommy Thompson - cited scheduling conflicts or prior commitments in declining.

"We know scheduling is a matter of priorities," he said. "This clearly sends a message that Latino elected officials are not a priority for the candidates."

While some Republicans disagree, citing the Democratic lean of the event, others expressed disappointment.

Another Miami Republican state legislator, Rep. Juan Zapata, a board member of NALEO and chairman of the state's host committee for the conference, has lobbied for three years to hold the conference in Florida.

"To go through all that and then see all the Republican candidates are a no-show, it's a huge loss for the Republicans," Zapata said.

You would think that Martinez would have wielded some influence with the GOP candidates to get at least a showing of support. More than a slap in the face of Hispanics, I think the candidates sent a pretty clear message of what they think of Martinez - not much. With the threat of purse strings, they clearly think that Martinez may chair the RNC, but he doesn't run it.

Bad for them. This will cost them in Florida where we are a bit opposite of the national Hispanic voting dynamic.

Our Hispanic politics is dominated by Cuba and the statehood debate for Puerto Rico, with much support for the Republican party. This won't sit well with a large coalition of Florida Hispanic voters who see themselves as integral to delivering Florida to the Republicans the last election cycle.

I think this bodes well for a more blue showing in the General Election. Stay tuned.