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GOP Step Up Efforts To Woo Hispanics

GOP Pledges To Court Minorities

GOP Step Up Efforts To Woo Hispanics

By Jim Vertuno

January 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - With the primary season getting under way in March, the Republican Party is stepping up efforts to woo Hispanics and other minority voters and crack traditional Democratic voting blocs.

Meeting in President Bush's home state Thursday, the Republican National Committee unveiled new strategies to lure Hispanic voters, including voter registration drives for newly naturalized citizens and intensive Spanish language lessons for party leaders in key states.

``We are serious about reaching out to Hispanics and bringing more diversity to the Republican Party,'' said RNC Deputy Chairman Jack Oliver.

The Democratic National Committee is meeting simultaneously in Washington, where one Democrat vowed not to give up Hispanic votes to the GOP.

``Republicans hope they can use high-dollar advertising, photo ops and spin to make up for their poor record on issues important to most Hispanics,'' said Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm.

``But the record makes it clear why Democrats have the support of the vast majority of Hispanics and Republicans can't buy support they haven't earned.''

Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population and Democrats still claim an advantage of 2-to-1 or more over Republicans among Hispanics in many parts of the country.

Republicans hope to reduce that edge with a program to introduce their agenda to Hispanic voters.

``Hispanic voters really are Republicans. They just don't know it yet,'' said RNC committeewoman Bernice Roberts of Arizona. ``We don't just want their vote, we want them in the party.''

The GOP also is relying heavily on the popularity of President Bush to draw significant numbers of Hispanics. Bush got 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000. He peppered his speeches with Spanish phrases when he was governor of Texas.

Sharon Castillo, spokeswoman for the RNC's outreach campaign, said GOP positions on education and tax cuts are popular among Hispanics.

Attracting Hispanics to the Republican Party could prove to be more difficult as Democrats mount an effort of their own.

In Texas, for example, two Hispanics, Dan Morales and Tony Sanchez, are seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. They have agreed to debate in Spanish, an unprecedented move in Texas gubernatorial politics.

Republican Hispanics hold just 125 elected offices nationwide, according to Castillo. ``It's important that they not only get involved as voters but as candidates, too,'' she said.

Also at the GOP winter meeting, Republicans said the bankruptcy of Enron Corp. and federal investigations shouldn't hurt the party in the 2002 elections. The company donated heavily to both parties, and Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay has been Bush's biggest campaign benefactor.

``Enron is an issue that is not a political issue,'' Republican National Committee Deputy Chairman Jack Oliver said. ``The president and many members of Congress are moving forward, not to make it partisan, but to try to get to the bottom of it to make sure it doesn't happen again.''

On Friday, the RNC was expected to elect former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot as its new chairman. He would succeed Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia.

Racicot lobbied for Enron Corp. last year, but Oliver said his ties to the embattled energy company should not be a problem for the party.

``No one has questioned the ethics or integrity of this great leader,'' he said. ``He is going to do a fabulous job as chairman.''

Environmental groups on Thursday protested Racicot's pending election, questioning whether his work as a utilities lobbyist indicates he will push the party to undermine the Clean Air Act.

At the DNC meetings in Washington, Democrats running for office or pondering a run had a chance to get acquainted with key party officials.

Among them: Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate; Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, another possible candidate in 2004; and former Attorney General Janet Reno, who is running for governor of Florida.

Democrats this week are expected to approve changes to their rules to allow states to move their presidential contests close behind Iowa and New Hampshire to ensure that a Democratic national candidate is chosen early in 2004.

They also will name a committee to select the site of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Several cities have already shown interest, including Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit and New York.

GOP Pledges To Court Minorities

By Connie Mabin

January 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Republican National Committee winter meeting ended Saturday with party leaders pledging to win over Hispanics and other minorities who have historically supported Democrats.

Addressing Republicans who have been meeting in President Bush's home state since Thursday, U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla said he was proof that Hispanics could fit in with the GOP.

``By its very nature, the Hispanic culture is one of conservative values. They share already so many principles with us,'' Bonilla said.

Bonilla said the GOP plans to reach out to minorities with voter registration drives and other initiatives, including Spanish language lessons for party leaders in key states and holding Republican meetings in minority neighborhoods.

Nationwide, there are at least two Hispanic Democrats for every Hispanic Republican. At the Democratic National Committee in Washington, Democrats devoted several sessions to minority topics and the party released copies of its Hispanic Radio Address, an effort begun this year.

One of two Hispanic Democrats vying for their party's gubernatorial nomination in Texas called the GOP effort insulting.

``What the Democrats have always known, but Republicans have never been able to grasp is that the dreams of Hispanics are no different than those of African-Americans, Anglos, Asian-Americans, Jews, Muslims or any other ethnic or religious group in this country,'' said former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales. He faces Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez in the Democratic primary.

But Bonilla said Bush's popularity with Hispanics shows that the party is gaining. Bush received 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000.

``The Republican Party isn't one that looks at people in terms of their skin color. They don't automatically assume that because you have darker skin you're going to fall automatically to the left,'' Bonilla said. ``For heaven's sake, we are independent thinkers. We have brains like any other ethnic group has.''

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