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New Hispanic GOP Group Aims To Rebuild Image

November 10, 2003
Copyright ©2003 THE WASHINGTON TIMES. All rights reserved.

A top Hispanic official in the Maryland Republican Party says the leader of the Hispanic Republican Caucus has degraded the minority group's image within the party.

"It has not only been an embarrassment to the Hispanic community," says Luis Borunda, chairman of the newly created Maryland Republican Hispanic Assembly. "It has also been gut-wrenching to watch."

Mr. Borunda was referring to Jorge L. Ribas, chairman of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus.

In mid-September, party leaders cut ties with the caucus after Mr. Ribas tried in August to publicly pressure Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to hire more Hispanics to better-paid positions within the administration.

The Ehrlich administration rebutted Mr. Ribas' claim that it has not hired Hispanics, saying it has nine Hispanics in positions and is looking to add more. The Republican officials have also said they requested a list of potential Hispanic appointments from Mr. Ribas' organization but never received them.

Mr. Ribas has been accused by party leadership of only being concerned with promoting himself to a paid position within the Ehrlich administration.

"It went down the tube because of his self-promotion and self-aggrandizement," Mr. Borunda said of the caucus and Mr. Ribas.

Mr. Borunda, of Baltimore, who is also part of the Governor's Commission on Minority Business Enterprise Reform, was selected by the party leadership to be the first chairman of the assembly when it was formed in September. He said the assembly — which was formed to be a statewide Hispanic outreach organization to recruit Hispanics as "team leaders" and improve communication from the state party by contacting Spanish-language newspapers and holding press conferences — has added members in Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and Anne Arundel, Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties.

Mr. Borunda did not have a firm count of how many members the organization has to date.

Eric M. Sutton, executive director of Maryland's Republican Party, has said the caucus was never an official auxiliary and the party has opted to rely on the newly created organization instead.

Mr. Sutton said the goal of the assembly is to become an official member of the national party.

Mr. Sutton and other Republican members — including Mr. Ehrlich, who has said he backs party leadership — in August told the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus' executive board to oust Mr. Ribas or ties would be cut and a new organization created.

Instead, Mr. Ribas received a vote of confidence from the 20-member executive committee, causing the party to replace the caucus with the assembly.

Mr. Ribas said he was surprised at Mr. Borunda's comments and stressed that the caucus is still moving forward.

    Mr. Ribas also said Mr. Borunda may be upset that he won the chairmanship of the caucus May 14, even though Mr. Borunda had the party's backing.

"He is disgruntled that he lost the election to be the chair of the Hispanic Republican Caucus and he has not gotten over it," Mr. Ribas said, adding, "We wish him well."

• Robert Redding Jr. and Matthew Cella contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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