GOP unveils program to attract Hispanic voters

May 08, 2002|By MATT YOUNG

Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — In an effort to court Hispanic voters, the Republican National Committee announced this week it will produce a TV show to launch in six cities that will cover Hispanic issues from the Bush administration's perspective.

‘‘Our commitment to reach out to all constituency groups is serious, and the Hispanic community is no exception,'' said committee Chairman Marc Racicot in a prepared statement.

The half-hour monthly program, ‘‘Abriendo Caminos,'' or Opening Paths, will broadcast issue analysis and information about upcoming Republican events on Spanish-language networks Univision Communications Inc. and Telemundo Communications Group Inc. beginning May 20.


While the pilot program is limited to Fresno, Albuquerque, N.M., Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and Orlando, Fla.

‘‘We believe the show is going to take off,'' moving to smaller areas, said Rudy Fernandez, the committee's director of grassroots development.

The RNC said it is spending $1 million on the production, promotion and broadcasting of the show. But Racicot said, ‘‘We don't have unlimited resources to do everything, everywhere, right at the beginning.''

National committee officials said they hope the program will eventually boost support for Republican politicians nationwide, including California Republican Bill Simon, running for governor this year, and President Bush in 2004.

Fernandez said Republicans are ‘‘determined to compete for the Hispanic vote.''

While 62 percent of Hispanics supported Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential elections, only 35 percent voted for Bush. Hispanics are almost as numerous as African-Americans in the United States and tended to vote for Bush more than blacks. Only 9 percent of blacks voted for Bush last election.

Maria Guadalupe Garcia, a Republican running to represent the 51st congressional district, which includes Imperial County, was disappointed that the committee did not choose to initiate the program in her area.

Garcia accused the committee of performing only a ‘‘cursory view of voter registration statistics."

While only 31 percent of the district is registered Republican compared with the Democrats' 48 percent, Garcia is a Latina running in a Hispanic district that she says is socially conservative.

In other words, she thinks Republicans may be underestimating her chances to win against Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista. Garcia argued the Republican leadership should try to shore up support for candidates like herself rather than those in safer Hispanic districts, like in Florida, where Latinos lean Republican anyway.

Still, Garcia said the show is a good idea.

‘‘They're educating (Latinos about) what the Republican Party stands for,'' she said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe called the Republican initiative a ploy.

‘‘The extent to which Republicans pander to Latinos never ceases to amaze me,'' he said in a news release. ‘‘Rather than address the most pressing needs of the Hispanic community like education, health care, jobs, and immigration and offer concrete actions — Republicans have opted to condense their version of Hispanic outreach to a mere 30 minutes a month — coming to select markets near you.''

The Republican National Committee said the shows will focus on policy issues, with the first one concentrating on education.

Some reporters questioned how the program, labeled a ‘‘television news magazine'' but promoted by Republicans, could be considered news rather than propaganda.

Racicot retorted, ‘‘The news is a free market commodity that virtually any of us can share with another.''

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