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Dean: Democrats Must Cultivate Hispanics

June 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The Democratic Party is losing more and more Hispanic voters to the Republicans and must cultivate them if it is to win the 2008 presidential victory, Democratic Party leader Howard Dean told Latino officials on Friday.

More than 7 million Latinos -- of Central and South American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican descent -- voted in the 2004 presidential race.

But with each successive race, a higher percentage of the growing number of eligible Hispanics has voted for the Republican Party candidate. In 1996, there was a 51 percent gap between Sen. Robert Dole and President Bill Clinton, who won 72 percent of the Hispanic vote. In 2004, there gap narrowed to 20 percent between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, who won nearly 60 percent of Hispanic votes.

To win Latinos back, ''We need a 50-state strategy,'' Dean told several hundred elected and appointed Hispanic officials belonging to the National Association of Latino Officials.

''We want you to come to us and tell us what we need to do to win in your communities,'' Dean said.

About 93 percent of the 5,000-member Latino association belongs to the Democratic Party, said Dean, who was governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003 and ended his 2004 bid for the Democratic Party nomination after finishing third behind Kerry and John Edwards in the Wisconsin primary. He was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February. His tenure, until 2009, precludes him from running for president.

Democrats lost Hispanic votes in the last election because the Republican Party presented itself as the party of ''moral values,'' said Dean, 56.

But ''this (Democratic) party stands for social and economic justice,'' he said, criticizing the Bush administration's health, education, and social security policies.

''We are Democrats because of our moral values,'' he said.

A majority of Hispanics are Catholics and the values of Democrats and the Roman Catholic Church coincide for the most part, he added.

Although a recent survey shows most Hispanics are opposed to the war in Iraq, Dean did not dwell on the Bush administration's foreign policy.

''It is a moral value to have a strong national defense,'' he said. ''All Americans are incredibly proud of the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives daily.''

Two out of three Hispanics in the United States are of Mexican descent, and one in 10 is Puerto Rican. Nearly 4 percent are of Cuban origin and 15 percent are of South and Central American origin.

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