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POLITICS:

Is GOP missing chance to grow?

Hispanics disillusioned with Obama not being shown much love from Republicans

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isaac brekken / associated press file

New U.S. citizens Jenette Chavez, 18, and Josue Cano, 20, fill out voter registration forms in August at the Lloyd D. George federal courthouse in Las Vegas in 2008.

Updated Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 | 4:27 p.m.

Rick Perry, the immigration moderate, is sinking in the Republican presidential polls. GOP Sen. Dean Heller is ditching scheduled campaign appearances at Latin Chamber of Commerce meetings. And even conservatives in the Hispanic community are gaga for Democratic congressional candidate Ruben Kihuen.

So as Latino Republican leaders in Las Vegas maintain 2012 is the year to bolster the party’s Hispanic ranks, they are having to convince Republican candidates it’s a cause worth working for.

“You would be surprised at how many Republican Latinos there actually are in the state of Nevada. There are quite a few of us,” said Alex Garza, a Hispanic Republican activist. “I think the numbers are there; we just haven’t organized as well as the Democratic Latino organizations.”

The potential political power of Latinos is an oft-told story in Nevada and elsewhere, though any happy ending at the polls usually is enjoyed by Democrats.

Hispanics make up over a quarter of the state’s population, over a third of the population in Clark County, and during last year’s election, a record 16 percent of the electoral turnout.

In recent elections, the Latino vote in Nevada has swung heavily Democratic — 70 percent of the electorate came out for Harry Reid’s re-election last year; 77 percent for Obama in 2008. In 2004, Reid also pulled 70 percent of the Latino vote.

Lately, however, the Democratic hold on that vote has appeared to weaken.

Obama’s job approval numbers among Hispanics are at less than 50 percent, according to two polls this week. Democratic firm Lake Research Partners counted only 43 percent of Hispanics ranking Obama’s performance as “excellent” or “good” this fall. Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center poll this month puts his approval rating at 49 percent among Hispanics, only slightly higher than his approval rating among all Americans.

It’s not the loyalty Democrats want from their emerging bloc of base voters.

“The guy’s a failure as president,” said Rene Cantu, a prominent member of the Las Vegas Latino community and board member of the Latin Chamber of Commerce. A self-described lifelong Democrat, Cantu voted for Obama in 2008 but has changed his stripes, going so far as to register as a Republican.

“My values and views are ... very much more in line with the Republican Party,” he said, explaining that he feels Republicans’ position on immigration is what kept him “holding on to the Democratic Party for so long.” But then the Obama administration broke faith there, too.

“There has been a record number of deportations,” Cantu said. “That tells me he doesn’t care.”

Hispanic Democrats admit Obama’s record-setting performance on deportations — and the lack of any measurable successes on immigration reform — has been difficult to explain to members of the community.

“We have a lot of work to do, to bring people out who want to vote for President Obama and his administration,” said Vicenta Montoya, an immigration attorney in Las Vegas who serves as director of the Sí Se Puede (translation: “yes we can”) caucus of the Clark County Democrats.

But they do have a message ready to keep Latinos voting Democratic.

“There was almost a 100 percent Republican vote against the Dream Act,” Montoya said, referring to legislation that would give permanent residency to undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children and met other criteria. “This is not Latin America, this is not South America, (Obama) is not a dictator ... It’s a real civics lesson to teach people that no, just because you’re the president doesn’t mean you get whatever you want.”

And, Democrats argue, immigration is rarely a Latino voter’s No. 1 issue.

“Immigration does not come as one of the top issues for Latinos,” said Andres Ramirez, a Democratic strategist based in Las Vegas. “It is one of the most mobilizing issues though, on how they determine a candidate ... and the way (Republicans) talk about immigrants, it’s very offensive, it’s very dehumanizing how they view immigrants.”

Republican Sharron Angle’s U.S. Senate campaign commercials have not been forgotten (they depicted Latino immigrants as menacing), and although other Republican candidates have not echoed her campaign’s questionable sentiments on immigrants and Hispanics (“some of you look a little more Asian to me”), they also haven’t done much to reach out to the community.

Rep. Joe Heck is the only Republican candidate who has run a campaign for a statewide or federal office with a Latino outreach director; Heller hired his first Latino-outreach staffer on Sept. 1.

“He made the effort,” Tibi Ellis said. “He carved out time to talk to the community, and there is the proof: He’s elected.”

Ellis is in some ways the opposite of Cantu — a longtime Republican, she remains true to her conservative roots and optimistic about the party’s future in the Latino community. But she quit the party after it failed to rally around her Assembly campaign last year — a bid she said she was initially recruited for — and get the recalcitrant right wing of the party to support her candidacy.

She lost her primary, and the incumbent, Marilyn Dondero Loop, beat Republican Tim Williams in a close race. Ellis, meanwhile, changed her registration to independent and her tone to one of concerned criticism at how the party she loves is speaking to Latinos.

During the Republican presidential candidates’ nationally televised debate in Las Vegas last month, they were asked how they would speak to the Latino community. Newt Gingrich suggested that Latinos didn’t need to be singled out as any different from any other ethnic group. But Rick Santorum suggested Latinos should naturally gravitate toward the Republican Party because of shared faith-based values.

That message resonates with some Latinos.

“The Republican Party has very, very strong family values ... Latino families in general believe in the family values as well,” said Jose Hernandez, an accountant who serves as a youth pastor at his evangelical church with a mostly Latino group of 18- to 30-year-olds he counsels.

“My youth that I teach, obviously I’m teaching them Biblical principles and stuff, but then outside, I introduce them to the subject ... and by doing that I’m actually getting people to start coming around and thinking that the Republican agenda actually has better options than President Obama and the Senate,” he said. “If they’re learning good Christian values, they will vote Republican.”

Catching the youth is key any effort to gain support in the community. Nationwide, every month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and become eligible to vote.

Cantu and Garza say the party is working on it but could use funding and assistance from the greater Nevada GOP.

But for Ellis the party’s efforts have fallen short.

“What an opportunity they missed,” she said. The presidential candidates “were here in town, and none of them made an effort to contact the leaders in the community ... They need to show up in our communities. You expect to represent us? Show up in our communities.”

Latin Chamber of Commerce board member Peter Guzman, a conservative independent who usually votes Republican (though he admits he voted for Harry Reid in 2010 and intends to vote for Ruben Kihuen, if he gets the chance to), doesn’t fault the party that it hasn’t yet done more.

“I blame the majority of that on ourselves,” he said. “We are a large number ... but we don’t demand anything and most importantly, we don’t vote proportionally to the population.”

The numbers show the unrealized potential of the Latino vote: 16 percent turnout come election time is only slightly more than half the Hispanic population’s representation statewide.

And then there’s the matter of how the elections have worked for local Republicans: Brian Sandoval, who is Hispanic, didn’t need the Latino vote to win the governor’s office, and Dean Heller has never won on the strength of the Latino vote.

That fact, Guzman surmised, helps explains why Heller hasn’t yet rescheduled with the Latin Chamber of Commerce, after walking out of a meeting at the last minute, when he discovered an aide to Rep. Shelley Berkley was also going to be in attendance.

“We as Hispanics, we need to learn to unite and vote in bloc and we need to demand certain things,” Guzman said. “We can’t let the Democratic Party or the Republican Party assume they have our vote: That’s where we make our mistake.”

Garza said he sees Latinos taking steps in that direction, which is why he’s optimistic that the GOP can start to turn the Latino tide this year.

“There’s a lot of discontent,” he said. “You’re seeing more and more Latinos leave the Democratic Party and register independent. Next step is that they register Republican.

“You’re seeing more people not saying they’re going to vote Republican but at least saying they’re not going to vote for Obama ... What that means is people are actually exploring all ideas. We need to do it on a larger scale ... but you’re going to see Latino Republican registration increase. And I’m guaranteeing that.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story indicated that Rep. Joe Heck was the only Nevada Republican candidate for statewide or federal office with a Latino outreach director. That was true until Sept. 1, when Heller hired a Latino outreach director. | (November 21, 2011)

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  1. Did Latino voters do well under George Bush? Or was it undocumented people who entered the country illegally?

    People in this country legally, people of different color, would be insane to vote for one of the current Republican candidates for President of the United States. Legally insane!

    What is the larger picture of Democratic congressional candidate Ruben Kihuen? Clearly Democratics see Ruben as a lighting rod to bring out the Hispanic voters in favor of any Democrat. This in many ways is a form of corruption by the Democratics toward Ruben Kihuen. What good is Ruben if he cannot deliver the Hispanic vote?

    What has Ruben done as a State representative to warranty this much attention? Ruben is Hispanic, energetic and willingly to trade who he is to go as high as he can go in public office, just because he is Hispanic? Really? If this is all Ruben has if he gets to Washington, he will surely be corrupted and out of control.

    Unearned and undeserved power will guarrantee corruption, actions and results tell all.

  2. "What has Ruben done as a State representative to warranty this much attention? " .... You don't hear his name on the news because he hasn't broken ethics laws or gouged the taxpayer for massive buyouts just to go away . Yes he is a young lawmaker without 20 years of sucking on the public teat exactly what the tea party says they want . It is time to give him a chance to prove himself . We have already seen Dina's 20 years of running our state and country into the ground . If the republicans can come up with a candidate that will represent Latino voters rather then denigrate them they might have a chance . This election here in district 1 will be decided in the democratic primary and republicans know it .

  3. "'You would be surprised at how many Republican Latinos there actually are in the state of Nevada. There are quite a few of us,' said Alex Garza, a Hispanic Republican activist. 'I think the numbers are there; we just haven't organized as well as the Democratic Latino organizations.'"

    That may very well be.

    But back in the last Nevada Senate race, the Republican Party imploded when they put out racist, xenophobic and stereotypical ads about Latinos running across the border, bent on getting to Nevada and taking away American jobs, forming criminal gangs and intent on death and destruction. Their ads showed Latinos wearing bandanas, acting tough and flashing gang signs.

    That didn't get Sharron Angle anywhere. She lost by a landslide.

    "Rep. Joe Heck is the only Republican candidate for a statewide or federal office with a Latino outreach director. 'He made the effort,' Tibi Ellis said. 'He carved out time to talk to the community, and there is the proof: He's elected.'"

    A complete lie. A chance I guess to re-write Nevada political history.

    Representative Heck, before the election in November 2010, never went on record for ANYTHING. A national website that has a Political Courage Test Profile was never, ever filled out by Heck. In other words, he was voted in and didn't tell anyone anything about himself about anything, let alone Hispanic American issues.

    "Cantu and Garza say the party is working on it but could use funding and assistance from the greater Nevada GOP."

    They're not going to get it. The sole goal of the entire Republican Party, and this is nationally, is to demonize the entire Hispanic American community in order to curry votes from the Caucasians. Years and years and years and years of this political strategy are readily evident for anyone to see.

    Just look at some of the comments on LV Sun articles here. Whenever you talk about the Latino American vote here in Nevada, the ultra-righties go absolutely ballistic and automatically start talking about illegal immigration issues. Apples and oranges. They just want to stereotype and perform massive acts of blatant xenophobia. They cannot and will not change.

    "Garza said he sees Latinos taking steps in that direction, which is why he's optimistic that the GOP can start to turn the Latino tide this year. 'There's a lot of discontent,' he said. 'You're seeing more and more Latinos leave the Democratic Party and register independent. Next step is that they register Republican.'"

    It's a far cry stating that the Hispanic American voters are changing to register Republican. Mr. Garza states they are changing to independent. The linkage all of sudden to Republican is not there. Even though they register as an independent, on the whole, that don't mean they sympathize with nor want to vote Republican. To say registering to vote independent will lead to eventual registering as a Republican is nonsense.

  4. The Republican candidate Hispanics would back is Gary Johnson. However, Gary Johnson isn't getting any media attention (the media can't fathom the possibility of someone more libertarian than Ron Paul in this election - it just doesn't make sense to them). He polled ahead of other candidates but was not invited to television debates.

    Gary Johnson, a Republican, was elected twice as Governor of New Mexico - a heavily Hispanic state. He remains very popular in New Mexico, especially since he balanced the state's budget every year for 8 straight years. He's also known for vetoing more legislation than all the governors of every state combined.

  5. GQ did a great piece on him a while back: http://www.gq.com/news-politics/politics...

  6. Hey Dave this is Nevada not Florida if you were a resident of Nevada then your opinion might count but you don't so leave our political discourse to the citizens of Nevada. Please go spread your so called facts in your own state . Figures don't lie but liars figure .

  7. Thank you, Dave Francis, for your meticulous discourse on the reasons to E-Verify and put the pressure on our representatives in government!

    Since I have been a business owner and property owner, I can honestly tell you, that I have hired legal Americans, many times our high school students with work permits to do ranch work and various kinds of labor. The bull crap that many people spread that "the lillegals are only doing what the (lazy) Americans won't, it pure propaganda! Many good, hard working legal Americans, are more than willing to seize an opportunity to work, even the most menial of jobs.

    For the last 40 or so years, we have been subjected to UNFAIR job competition via the USA government allowing uncontrolled immigration, not enforcing border and immigration laws, and playing political favoritism. This has led to the dilemma of un- and underemployed legal Americans, massive stresses to our social services systems, and the bankrupting of our once great nation. The majority of violaters are from South of the Border! There are plenty from other countries who are here illegally, but the majority are those whose origins are south of the USA.

    All this political grab of "Hispanic votes" is a matter of the Rs and Ds wanting those swing votes, not necessarily to represent any Hispanic issue or concern. Going Independent is the wisest decision to vote, as the 2 party system is imploding and is disasterously dysfunctional. Nothing is getting done in current government between the 2 parties.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  8. The Dream Act, was poorly written, and basically enslaving future citizens for a long period of time. Illegals should be thankful it did NOT pass as it was originally written. Going through the standard route to citizenship would be far better than the harsh terms of the Dream Act. I am all FOR providing a reasonable route to citizenship. My Grandparents came here, learned the English language, and supported their very large family towards success and realizing the American Dream. All my Aunts and Uncles are outstanding and highly successful, contributing Americans, as is my cousins, my family as well. Going the LEGAL path to citizenship is the RIGHT thing to do.

    It bothers me greatly, when you equate a party with some moral values as, "If they're learning good Christian values, they will vote Republican."

    Each person alive is absolutely responsible for the "content of their character," and you must never mix religion with politics! There is separation of Church and State for a very good reason. Neither 2 parties have perfect scorecards on morality, ethics, or truly representing the People. Leave religious beliefs out of politics, please.

    Hopefully, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, is reaching out to the community to encourage LEGAL immigration and voter registration, and not stuffing the ballot box full of invalid, forged, illegal votes. I want to hear about what they are proactively doing in these respects.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star