GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is sending one of his top Hispanic advisers to the National Council of La Raza convention in Las Vegas, his campaign said Friday.
Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez plans to attend the conference Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Gutierrez will visit Romney volunteers at the campaign's booth, which will be set up at the four-day conference. Gutierrez won't get a speaking role, however, because Saturday's conference agenda was apparently too packed.
"We are honored and excited to welcome former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at the La Raza conference tomorrow, where he will meet with volunteers at the 'Mitt Romney for President' booth. We understand La Raza's speaker lineup is too full to accommodate Secretary Gutierrez, but should they find time in their schedule, he will of course be on hand to address the crowd and explain why President Obama's failed policies have kept Hispanic unemployment at 11 percent nationally," said Mason Harrison, spokesman for Romney's campaign in Nevada.
On Saturday, Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to deliver the luncheon address to the La Raza conference. U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is set to speak at the same lunch. Berkley is running for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is not scheduled to address the meeting.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak to the La Raza conference. The Romney campaign had been negotiating with conference organizers to arrange to have another Romney representative speak on the same day, but La Raza leaders said they were no longer accepting surrogate speakers on the schedule.
In recent weeks, Romney has been stepping up his outreach to Latinos, particularly in battleground states such as Nevada where they made up about 15 percent of the electorate in the last election. Four years ago, Obama overwhelmingly won Hispanics in Nevada by a three-to-one margin over his GOP presidential foe and he remains popular among Latinos.
In June, Romney named dozens of top Republican Hispanics as national and state advisers to his campaign, including Gutierrez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Gutierrez was commerce secretary for four years, mostly during the second term of President George W. Bush's administration.
Sandoval is expected to deliver a videotaped address to the La Raza conference, but he does not plan to attend because of a scheduling conflict.
La Raza, which bills itself as a non-partisan organization, is the largest civil rights group representing Hispanic interests in the nation.
The Nevada Democratic Party on Friday criticized Romney for declining an invitation to address the La Raza conference.
Republicans noted that neither Romney nor Obama were attending and were sending surrogates instead.
Last month, both Romney and Obama addressed a major Latino conference in Florida, where they spoke about immigration. Obama announced his administration would no longer deport young adult children of undocumented immigrants who had grown up in the United States. Romney has refused to say whether he would reverse Obama's policy if he won the White House.
Romney has said he would veto the DREAM Act, which would allow those young immigrants to stay in the United States but go further to provide them a path to U.S. citizenship.