Sandoval welcomes immigration debate in GOP recruiting effort

WASHINGTON - Gov. Brian Sandoval said Wednesday the national debate over immigration reform should help the Republican Party attract more Hispanic candidates in 2014.

"I believe the immigration debate is going to be a strong way to attract more Hispanic candidates," Sandoval said. "I think they are going to want to be part of this immigration debate. I think it is very healthy, and it is about time."

Sandoval made the comment as he and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced the formation of the Future Majority Caucus, which will focus on recruiting and electing more Republican Latinos and women at the state level.

The group plans to expand efforts the Republican State Leadership Committee launched during the 2012 election cycle. They recruited 127 minority candidates and spent more than $5 million on their campaigns.

The 2012 elections resulted in a net gain of one Latino Republican holding elected office in the states.

The U.S. Senate has three Latino senators: two Republicans and one Democrat. And, there are 31 Latinos serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Most are Democrats, according to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

Sandoval said Wednesday that he hopes to recruit Hispanics to run as Republicans in Nevada in 2014.

There are no Hispanic Republicans serving in the Nevada Assembly or Senate.

"We are going to identify, attract and encourage minority candidates both within my state and nationally," Sandoval said.

Sandoval, Martinez and RSLC Chairman Ed Gillespie participated in a conference call with reporters Wednesday to announce the effort. The call was dominated by questions about immigration reform, which is back on the front burner in Congress.