Republican courtship of Latino vote falters

One thing has become clear during this election cycle: The Hispanic electorate matters. It doesn’t only matter to the Democrats, but also to the GOP, which had a strong presence of Latino elected officials on stage during the Republican National Convention.

As a Latina voter, I can’t lie: I’m a little flattered, and I love the attention.

With speakers such as New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who gave the convention’s nomination speech, it became clear the GOP intends to make strides with the coveted Latino vote. These efforts speak volumes and are appreciated, given that the GOP historically has more support among nonethnic Americans.

The Democratic National Convention was a bit more colorful however, giving prime-time spots to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as keynote speaker, Convention Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and even giving a speaking slot to Dream Act student activist Benita Veliz.

The stage was one thing. The audience was another.

While the Democratic convention hosted a rainbow of people from all ethnicities, I did not see the same at the GOP convention. Only 2 percent of GOP convention delegates were African-American, same as in 1968. Just 37 percent were women, and while there are no official numbers for Hispanic delegates , 90 percent were "non-Hispanic whites."

On the other hand, the Democratic convention had 40 percent minority delegates, half were women and roughly 11 percent were Latinos. The Democratic convention was simulcast in Spanish. At the Republican convention, Rubio spoke a few lines of Spanish.

While it was flattering seeing Rubio reach out with some Español, it struck me as inconsistent when I read through the GOP platform. It clearly states, "We support English as the nation’s official language." OK, but why? I tested in English in school, took my SAT in English, I answer the phone at work in English. I understand you need to know English in this country. So why put it in your platform?

In Spanish-language ads on Univision for both Mitt Romney and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, they say in broken Spanish, "Hola yo soy Mitt Romney/Dean Heller." I wonder if in their courtship of my vote, there might be a little deception. English only, but Spanish ads? I’m confused. Do they like me or not? Or is this the schoolyard tradition where a boy pulls your hair because he likes you?

Whatever it is, I’m a grown woman and I demand respect . Sen. Heller has come under fire for inconsistency between his Spanish and English website. In 2008, as a U.S. representative, he introduced a bill requiring that ballots be provided only in English. Yet there he is on Univision saying in Spanish that he wants my "voto." Huh? And they say women are complicated.

I, along with many Hispanics, believe President Barack Obama never delivered on his promise to enact comprehensive immigration reform. He deported a record numbers of immigrants. However, the GOP takes that and raises us SB1070. In its platform, the GOP says state "efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked. The pending Department of Justice lawsuits against Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah must be dismissed."

Many of my Hispanic friends and I see Arizona’s SB1070 as discriminatory, especially its provision for detaining people on "suspicion of being illegal immigrants." To me, that means one thing: skin color. I thought we settled this in the ’60s with the civil rights movement. So why do we have to fight this again?

And while Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer did not have key roles at the convention, it doesn’t mean they aren’t key figures in the Republican Party. Comments such as "electric fences" and "anchor babies" are cheered at Republican events.

There’s still a ways to go when it comes to properly courting the Hispanic vote.

Michelle Alejandra Booth is an associate with the Ramirez Group, a Las Vegas public affairs and political consulting firm.

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