CARSON CITY — Hispanic Govs. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico were named honorary co-chairs of the Future Majority Caucus this month, part of a national Republican effort to recruit more women and minority candidates to run for state offices.
Republicans are changing course after President Barack Obama was re-elected, due largely to high Hispanic voter turnout for Democrats nationwide. They have decided to support more immigration causes and to become more aggressive in pursuing Hispanic supporters and candidates. And the nation’s only two Hispanic Republican governors are the new figureheads for this drive.
But before searching for women and minority political candidates, Sandoval might want to scrutinize his own 22-member Cabinet to see if it fits the Republican message of how to build a majority.
His Cabinet, like the Republican Caucus in the Legislature, is mostly made up of older white men.
It has one Hispanic, Transportation Department Director Rudy Malfabon; two women, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Director Claudia Vecchio and state Energy Office head Stacey Crowley; and one black man, Department of Employment, Rehabilitation and Training Director Frank Woodbeck.
Sandoval has not filled the vacant American Indian seat in his Cabinet, but an administration official said Sherry Rupert, a Native American who serves as the state Indian Commission’s executive director, has an interim post in the Cabinet now.
Last week the governor appointed George Tsukamoto as interim director of the state Wildlife Department. He becomes the first Asian-American in the Cabinet, but the administration plans a nationwide search for a permanent director. Tsukamoto, of Japanese ancestry, grew up in an internment camp during World War II.
SANDOVAL ‘PROUD’ OF HIS CABINET
Sandoval defended his Cabinet choices.
“I am very proud of the Cabinet and the work they have done,” he said.
He declined to comment when asked if he wants to appoint more women and minorities to his Cabinet.
The reality is Sandoval’s Cabinet does not reflect today’s Nevada.
That Nevada, according to state Demographer Jeff Hardcastle, is 41 percent minorities. Of every 100 residents, 59 are white non-Hispanics, 26 Hispanic, 8 percent Asian-American, 7 percent African-American and 1 percent American Indian. The figures are rounded off.
To gauge whether he tries to hire women and minorities, Sandoval said people should “look at the full body of (my) appointments. I think that is a better indication.”
His office released a 36-page list of judicial, commission and board appointments made by Sandoval between Feb. 5, 2011, and Feb. 5, 2013. Of the 967 total appointments, 640 were men and 327 women. Of the total, 45 appointees were Hispanic.
The female and Hispanic appointment percentages are much higher than for Sandoval’s Cabinet. But to achieve parity with their percentages of the population, 107 more women and 205 more Hispanic people should have been hired.
Since the administration did not list the sex or ethnicity of his appointments, no one with a traditional masculine first name was counted as a woman. Only people with traditional Hispanic first or last names were counted as Hispanic, although some Hispanic people have Anglo last names and women often take their husband’s last name.
“You have to look at qualifications, too,” said Rosemary Gary, state president of the League of Women Voters. “That’s a big question. But surely there are qualified women and minorities that he could appoint.”
HISPANICS CRITICAL, SUPPORTIVE
Part of the Republican recruitment problem is Hispanic and black people overwhelmingly are Democrats. And in the 2012 presidential election, women supported President Barack Obama by an 11 percentage point margin over Republican Mitt Romney, while men supported Romney by 7 percentage points over Obama, according to CNN exit polls.
Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, said he has tried unsuccessfully to speak with Sandoval about his appointments and help him recruit Hispanic women and men whom he could name to key positions.
“We want to send him résumés of qualified people,” Romero said. “There are a number of Latino people who are highly qualified and well-experienced in many fields. Not all Hispanics are Democrats, maybe 70 percent are, but they are going to take the direction of their boss. I have made attempts to reach out to the governor, but it has been a one-way street.”
Otto Merida, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, said he hasn’t kept track of Sandoval’s Cabinet or appointments, and could not comment on them. But he said he supports Sandoval and his efforts toward economic diversification and trade with other countries.
“We are happy with the direction he is taking,” Merida said. “He is trying to move our state forward and taking a new approach to economic development. He is doing a very good job.”
LEGISLATURE FALLS SHORT, TOO
Sandoval’s Cabinet is not the only government body where women and minorities are underrepresented. The Legislature also has far fewer women and minorities than the state population.
Unlike Sandoval, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, freely acknowledged the numbers and said they must do more to change them.
“We have made a lot of progress in recent years in the Legislature,” said Denis, the state’s first Hispanic majority leader. “But we aren’t there yet. I want the governor to appoint more qualified Hispanics and women. But we need to do that, too.”
He added it is often a struggle to find minorities and women who want to run for office.
“He should do more, but we all should do more,” added Kirkpatrick, the second woman in state history to serve as speaker. “We rank pretty low when it comes to women in the Legislature. We need more balance. Nevada is a melting pot.”
Kirkpatrick noted the percentage of women in the Assembly has been flat over the past 15 years and she needs to try to change that.
GOP LEADER SHARES GOAL
Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, came under fire in January from 14 leading Republican women who complained after he moved the only Republican woman in the Senate, Barbara Cegavske, off the Senate Finance Committee and failed to find enough Republican women candidates.
Roberson responded that he had tried to get more women candidates, particularly Senate candidate Mari St. Martin, who lost her race, but needed to do more.
“I recognize that the Republican caucus needs to become more diverse,” he said. “I tried to recruit women to run in four open competitive Senate seats. We have the same goal: to recruit more women, more minorities. I do not want our party to be the party of old white men.”
Of the 25 Republican state legislators, none are Hispanic, three are women and the rest white males.
Of the 37 Democratic legislators, seven are black, seven are Hispanic, 15 are women and the rest white males.
The Legislature has no Asian-American or American Indian members.
If the Legislature matched the demographic breakdown of the state’s population, there would be 14 more women and nine more Hispanic members.
Surprisingly, with seven African-American members, the Legislature has two more blacks than their percentage of the state population. A black person, however, never has been elected governor or Assembly speaker.
The most glaring underrepresented population is the Asian-American community. To reflect the state population, there should be five Asian-American legislators.
Also, an American Indian member has not served in the Legislature since 1939.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.