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Republicans Push Minority Candidates, Democrats Targeting Hispanic Voters in 15 States Call GOP Hispanic Outreach ‘A Joke"

Republicans Push Minority Candidates

By Steve Miller

August 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE WASHINGTON TIMES. All rights reserved.

The Republican Party says it has its largest-ever field of non-incumbent minorities seeking top offices this fall, with party leaders touting 20 black and 39 Hispanic candidates in federal and major state elections.

The political hopefuls include candidates for Congress and for such statewide offices as governor and secretary of state, and they come in a political season that will find blacks and Hispanics with a strong voice in deciding the winners.

"This is unprecedented, this kind of effort from Republicans," said Larry Gonzalez, director of the Washington office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

"The Republicans seem to be building a farm team to bring some of these candidates through the ranks, which is where it all starts. They will eventually then have a large pool of candidates to choose from for congressional races."

Among the more prominent of the minority Republicans on the ballot this year are Michael Steele, who is running for lieutenant governor of Maryland, and Mario Diaz-Balart, brother of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and a candidate in South Florida's newly created 25th Congressional District.

Democrats, though, continue to run more black candidates, with 27 non-incumbents running for statewide and federal offices. The Democratic Party has not tracked its overall number of minority candidates this fall.

Figures for both parties were provided this week. The numbers include all candidates who either have won a primary or who are running in the 25 states that have yet to hold primaries.

Included on the roster of prominent minority Democrats running are former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who is seeking the seat of retiring Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, and New York State Comptroller Carl McCall, who is challenging incumbent Gov. George E. Pataki.

Democrats and Republicans are courting the country's blacks and Hispanics, which together account for almost 25 percent of the population.

The traditional edge goes to Democrats, who have long represented themselves as the party of minorities and the downtrodden. President Bush received 8 percent of the black vote in 2000 in the face of a massive black voter drive and negative ads by such groups as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Despite an increase in minority candidates, Republicans are going to have a hard time getting anything more than that 8 percent, said David Bositis, executive director of the Center for Joint Political and Economic Studies.

"Having more black candidates won't help; having more black Republican voters will lead to more black Republican candidates," said Mr. Bositis, whose group studies the political and economic behavior of blacks.

"The fact of the matter is that most of the black population supports black Democratic candidates," he said.

That allegiance, long trumpeted by the Democrats, tends to upset most dents Republicans make in the minority electorate. Therefore, the Democratic Party counts on tradition in every election.

"We didn't get the dominant number of minority votes overnight," said Guillermo Meneses, director of Hispanic media for the Democratic National Committee.

In the Hispanic community, he said, the party's ties date to the recent waves of Hispanic immigration, beginning in the 1960s.

"These bonds run 10, 20, 30 years deep," Mr. Meneses said. "The Latino community understands this, and that is why they remain committed to us."

Nationally, Hispanics hold 5,205 elected offices. Among those with listed partisan affiliations, 1,474 of them are Democrats and 126 Republican, according to figures compiled by Mr. Gonzalez's group. But Republicans view the Hispanic vote as a more promising possibility than the black vote and hope to improve on the 35 percent showing Mr. Bush had in 2000.

"With this president, we have made some inroads," said Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. "But it is important that we are now recruiting viable minority candidates and develop that pool."

The increase in minority candidates for the Republicans can give a choice to minority voters in stronghold areas for either party, said Pat Ahumada, a Hispanic Republican from South Texas who is running for Congress.

"The more we run, the more we can expand our party's base," said Mr. Ahumada, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, a Democrat.

Democrats Target Hispanic Voters in 15 States

August 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Roll Call All rights reserved.
Via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

Democratic officials will unveil a comprehensive get-out-the- vote plan targeting Hispanic voters on Thursday in the hope of using the Latino community's support to seize operating control of Congress in November, while building a loyal base of supporters for the 2004 presidential race.

The Democratic National Committee will direct money and resources to 15 states and dozens of Congressional districts with large Latino populations over the next three months, according to the plan to be unveiled today at the DNC's Summer Meeting in Las Vegas.

DNC officials suggest mobilizing Hispanic voters to support Democratic candidates this fall should help the party hold the Senate majority, take back control of the House, elect governors and put in place dozens of political machines for 2004.

"I know the numbers and Republicans know the numbers, and right now we get 66 percent of the Hispanic vote," said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "We are going to have people on the ground, and we will be out there aggressively getting our message out."

"These people will be there for this year and also very importantly in '04," added DNC spokeswoman Maria Cardona.

Both political parties are trying to build stronger ties with the Latino community, which is the largest ethnic minority in the country, according to the 2000 Census. The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, estimates there were 5.93 million Latino voters in 2000, and the number is expected to climb to 7.85 million in 2004.

Of the 15 targeted states, Democrats said strong support of Hispanic voters would help Democrats defeat Senate incumbents in Arkansas and Oregon and claim the open seat in North Carolina.

"Those Senate races are shaping up to be really close races, and if we can energize the community we have a chance to pick up those seats," said Andres Gonzales, director of the DNC's Latino and Hispanic outreach.

But Mitch Bainwol, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the GOP has already been reaching out to the Latino communities in those states and argued that the Republican Party better represents issues and values important to Hispanic voters.

"I can't quarrel with the assessment that the Hispanic voter is important in those states," Bainwol said. "We didn't have to wait until 90 days before the election to recognize that fact. Our campaigns have been working it, and the Johnny-come-lately effort by the DNC will amount to nothing more than a nice try."

McAuliffe would not say how much money the DNC would spend on the effort, but added he is keeping his pledge to "make this one of his top priorities."

The other states the DNC plans to target include: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.

In addition to reaching out publicly to Hispanic voters, the DNC will also tout its strong ties to the black and gay and lesbian communities at this three-day conference.

"It is very important to bring people together, to keep our whole coalition together," McAuliffe said. "The bottom line is we are right on the issues and Republicans are wrong on the issues."

McAuliffe Calls GOP Hispanic Outreach ‘A Joke"


August 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

LAS VEGAS - Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe says the campaign by President Bush and fellow Republicans to court Hispanic voters "is a joke." Republicans say they will get the last laugh.

Opening the Democratic National Committee's three-day summer meeting, McAuliffe said, "The president invites mariachi bands to the White House, and that's supposed to be some sort of outreach effort,"

"I think the Republican outreach is a joke," he said.

Republican Party spokeswoman Sharon Castillo countered that polls show a strong majority of Hispanics approve of Bush's job performance.

"They trust him when it comes to the war on terrorism. They trust him ... to bring the economy around. They trust him and agree with him on education and Social Security," she said.

"Mr. McAuliffe can call it what he wants, but the truth of the matter is that (Democrats') own pollsters warn them time and time again that Republicans and President Bush made incredible inroads in the Hispanic community, and Democrats have no plan to counter that."

Bush's job approval was at 70 percent in May in a poll by Democratic pollster Sergio Bendixen. The poll was done for the New Democrat Network.

Bush earned just 35 percent of the Hispanic vote en route to his narrow 2000 victory while Democratic candidate Al Gore had 62 percent. Bush's own advisers acknowledge he must improve his standing among Hispanics before his 2004 re-election bid.

With midterm elections three months away, both political parties are trying to build closer ties to the Hispanic community, the largest ethnic minority in the country. The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, estimates the number of Hispanic voters will climb from 5.9 million in 2000 to 7.8 million in 2004.

McAuliffe said Democrats are targeting 15 states and dozens of congressional districts with large Hispanic populations. He said millions of dollars — McAuliffe would not specify how much — will help identify Hispanic voters and pay for polling, advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in Hispanic communities.

McAuliffe said Republicans are doing the same things, but not as much as Democrats. He accused GOP leaders of relying on superficial efforts, such as photo opportunities with Hispanics and teaching Republican officials to speak Spanish.

"What good does that do? It allows you to speak in their native tongue as you speak out of both sides of your mouth," McAuliffe said.

Castillo, who said Republicans are matching Democratic grass-roots efforts, noted that Democrats give Spanish lessons to their leaders, too, "and I commend them for that."

Democratic pollsters told party leaders the political atmosphere is improving, in part because of the corporate accounting scandals.

A party poll circulated among DNC leaders Thursday says that Bush's popularity has dropped from 72 percent in February to 58 percent now. Only 38 percent of those polled gave Bush a positive rating on addressing corporate accounting.

Voters favor Democrats in Congress over Republicans by 48 percent to 35 percent when the choices are cast in these terms: "We need to elect more Republicans to Congress to help President Bush fight the war on terrorism, cut taxes and implement his programs" versus "We need to elect more Democrats to Congress to provide a check and balance to keep the Republicans in Congress from going too far in favoring the big special interests at the expense of working people."

The poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang and the Mellman Group, found that 63 percent of likely voters believe GOP lawmakers care more about special interests than working families.

"The nation's political climate has undergone substantial changes. Virtually all of these changes improve the Democrat's prospects for success in this year's midterm elections," reads a DNC memo prepared for the meeting.

Activists at the meeting said they hope the corporate scandals balance out Bush's wartime popularity, a source of frustration as they plan for the midterm elections and the 2004 presidential race.

Linda Sanchez, a congressional candidate from California, said voters sometimes tell her "Bush is good for our community." She said she convinces them otherwise when the conversation turns to domestic issues.

Dario Herrera, a congressional candidate from Nevada, predicted that domestic issues will prevail in November, but when it comes to the war, "Everybody feels a duty to support their president."

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