His­pan­ics in GOP get boost

New group seeks to re­cruit and fi­nance state, lo­cal can­di­dates

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Corrie MacLag­gan

At the Texas Capi­tol, there are about three dozen His­panic law­mak­ers in the House and Se­nate. The num­ber of those who are Repub­li­cans: zero.

That’s what His­panic Repub­li­cans of Texas is try­ing to change.

The new group, co-founded by Ge­orge P. Bush (son of Jeb, nephew of Ge­orge W.), seeks to re­cruit, elect, sup­port and de­fend His­panic Repub­li­can can­di­dates and elected of­fi­cials in Texas, where His­pan­ics rep­re­sent 37 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

But at a time when an Ari­zona law has em­bold­ened Repub­li­cans na­tion­wide who are op­posed to re­forms giv­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants a stream­lined path to cit­i­zen­ship and when one statewide of­fice­holder in Texas with a His­panic sur­name couldn’t sur­vive his GOP pri­mary, the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee is cer­tain to face chal­lenges.

“We just need to do a bet­ter job of re­mind­ing our Lati­nos that Repub­li­cans don’t have horns and don’t all live in coun­try clubs,” Ja­cob Monty, a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors, said at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day mark­ing the group’s for­mal launch.

Ear­lier this year, Texas Rail­road Com­mis-

sion Chair­man Vic­tor Car­rillo blamed anti-His­panic bias when he lost his re-elec­tion bid in the Repub­li­can pri­mary to a rel­a­tively un­known can­di­date named David Porter.

“Yeah, there have been some set­backs, and we wish we would have had dif­fer­ent re­sults in those races,” said Monty, re­fer­ring to Car­rillo’s loss and that of Har­ris County tax as­ses­sor Leo Vasquez, “but don’t write us off yet. … The His­panic val­ues are con­ser­va­tive val­ues, so we have a bright fu­ture ahead of us.”

The po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee said it will seek can­di­dates who “share our com­mon val­ues of faith, fam­ily, lower taxes, less reg­u­la­tion and less govern­ment spend­ing.”

Ge­orge P. Bush, who re­cently moved to Fort Worth af­ter a stint in Austin, wasn’t at Tues­day’s event be­cause he has been de­ployed with the U.S. Navy Re­serve, com­mit­tee of­fi­cials said. The group, which started last Septem­ber, was also founded by Ge­orge An­tuna, a for­mer state House can­di­date who works in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try (and was not at Tues­day’s event, ei­ther) and Juan Her­nan­dez, a Fort Worth na­tive who was a mem­ber of the cabi­net of for­mer Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Vi­cente Fox.

Her­nan­dez said Tues­day that the group isn’t a pol­icy-set­ting or­ga­ni­za­tion. But Her­nan­dez him­self is an out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate of com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and Monty said at the news con­fer­ence that such re­form is needed.

“We need com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and a lot of Repub­li­cans are in fa­vor of that, but I think that’s a real dis­trac­tion,” said Monty, a lawyer. “There are other is­sues we’re concerned about. We’re also concerned about small busi­nesses, the ris­ing deficit.”

Com­mit­tee lead­ers on Tues­day un­veiled ads they plan to run on Fox, CNN and Univi­sion that cel­e­brate Texas’ His­panic her­itage and en­cour­age His­pan­ics to run for of­fice.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fis­cher, a San An­to­nio Demo­crat who is chair­man of the Mex­i­can Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Cau­cus, said his first re­ac­tion to the launch of His­panic Repub­li­cans of Texas is: “a re­sound­ing bien­venidos. Wel­come to the de­bate.”

But Martinez Fis­cher, whose group is open to Repub­li­cans but in­cludes only Democrats, also said that “the 900-pound ele­phant in the room” is that “there are some very mean­spir­ited, di­vi­sive po­si­tions that the Repub­li­can Party has on Lati­nos.”

“Let’s see if the His­panic Repub­li­cans of Texas can make some in­roads in chang­ing the mind-set of the Repub­li­can Party in Texas,” Martinez Fis­cher said.

His­panic Repub­li­cans of Texas says it has al­ready dis­trib­uted more than $50,000 in di­rect and in-kind do­na­tions to 10 state and lo­cal can­di­dates, and, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings with the Texas Ethics Com­mis­sion, it has about $12,000 on hand.

Larry Gon­za­les, a Repub­li­can from Round Rock who is seek­ing to un­seat Demo­cratic state Rep. Diana Mal­don­ado, re­ceived $13,500 from the group, and Raul Tor­res, who is vy­ing for Solomon Or­tiz Jr.’s Cor­pus Christi seat, got $18,200.

Gon­za­les said at the news con­fer­ence that when he first filed for of­fice, some His­panic friends in Round Rock had some ques­tions for him.

“‘His­panic Repub­li­can? Why should we vote for you?’” Gon­za­les re­called them say­ing.

He said he re­sponded that what they had worked for in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, “ev­ery path you said you were clear­ing, and ev­ery trail you said you were blaz­ing, you were do­ing so for one rea­son. … It was al­ways for the next guy,” to give the next gen­er­a­tion a chance to suc­ceed.

Glanc­ing around at the fel­low can­di­dates and sup­port­ers of His­panic Repub­li­cans of Texas at the launch event, Gon­za­les said: “We’re a room full of the next guy.”

Larry

Gon­za­les is vy­ing for lo­cal House seat.

Juan Her­nan­dez is co-founder of new group.

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