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GOP Aggressively Pursues Hispanics
By Al Cardenas
November 29, 2001
There has been much discussion of late regarding a perceived decline in the involvement of the Central Florida Hispanic community, in everything from local redistricting to mayoral races. To the extent this is true, much of it can be traced back to the empty promises of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have been making some very large promises to Hispanic candidates to get them on the ballot. Then, when the rubber meets the road, the promises are broken and the candidate loses, sometimes leaving a bitter taste in the community.
At the Republican Party of Florida, we're heavily involved in our mission of garnering increased support from the Hispanic community. We want much more than Hispanic voters. We want the community to be deeply involved in every level of the Republican Party, from volunteers to campaign managers to local officials and candidates and elected officials serving in Tallahassee. In other words, winning the hearts and votes of a community has to be done from the ground up, and it starts with keeping your promises.
The recent mayoral race in Deltona has been used as an example of a reduction of Hispanic interest. In fact, it's a great example of broken Democrat promises.
Joe Perez was recruited by the Florida Democratic Party to change his voter registration from Republican and run for mayor as a Democrat. The Democrats made thousands of dollars in campaign promises to Perez. They wanted to use him as a public-relations tool, to hold him up as an example of what happens when ex-Republicans run for office as Democrats.
It was a fool's errand. The Republican mayor running for re-election was a popular figure and more qualified than Perez. When the Democrats broke their promise of support, the mayor's re-election turned into a landslide. It really has less to do with lack of Hispanic interest than with the inability of the Democratic Party to make good on its commitments.
At the Republican Party of Florida, we don't make empty promises to candidates. When we make a commitment, it's as good as done. It's the only way to conduct business, and it's one reason why we're gaining ground in the Hispanic community, and will continue to do so.
It took about 20 years for Miami-Dade County's Hispanics to have their political presence felt in a major way. In 1980, more than a third of Miami-Dade's population was of Hispanic origin, yet only a handful of gubernatorial appointments were all the community had to show for it; not a single state senator, representative or member of Congress. Today, two of three members of Congress, six of 13 members of the County Commission, half of the county's legislators, dozens of mayors, city council members and judges are Hispanic.
The Hispanic community in Central Florida is now where Miami-Dade Hispanics were in 1980 -- at the gates of opportunity. The Republican Party is looking for committed Hispanic men and women to help make a quantifiable leap in political representation. We are confident that the opportunities abound and the time is now.
Al Cardenas is the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.