Bush dynasty Republican aims to win Hispanics to GOP

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by Mark Wiggins and John Fisher / KVUE.com

kens5.com

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio's hard-line stance on illegal immigration has made him a star in the Republican community and a controversial figure among Hispanics. So how does the party of Arpaio hope to win over Hispanic voters come November?

In Texas, the task falls to George P. Bush, nephew of President George W. Bush and grandson of President George H. W. Bush. Co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, Bush says when it comes to the Hispanic community, it's not immigration but the economy that's on most families' minds.

"The common misperception also is that all Hispanics are Democrat, and they're not," said Bush. "It's not a monolithic community. You have on one end third-generation Hispanics that don't know a word of Spanish, and the other side you have first-generations that speak exclusively Spanish. There's in the Hispanic community differing points of view on almost all the issues."

Rather than concentrate on immigration, Bush hopes to connect with Hispanic voters on social issues.

"I think we need to continue to focus on the issues that make us attractive in other ways outside of immigration, and that is focusing on the family -- social questions where there's more alignment between the almost-exclusively Catholic Hispanic community and the Republican party," said Bush.

"Also I think issues related to fiscal conservatism. The Hispanic community is extremely entrepreneurial. There are over 50,000 businesses, small businesses owned by Hispanics here in the state of Texas, and being the party of small business, I think, resonates within the community."

The million dollar Tejano monument under construction at the Texas Capitol is a physical reminder of how important Hispanics are to Texas, but if GOP lawmakers want to win over the hearts of a group that voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2008, they face tough questions from many in the Hispanic community.

"There's not one Republican statewide elected official that I'm aware of, or even a local one, that has spoken out against the anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant rhetoric that's been going on in the Republican primary on the presidential level," said Democratic political consultant James Aldrete. "Governor Perry was traveling around with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and their whole thing has been who's going to be hardest against Hispanics and immigrants."

Aldrete points to the ongoing battle over redistricting, as well as the voter identification law, both of which resulted in lawsuits from numerous Hispanic organizations alleging racial discrimination.

"There's all sorts of efforts by Republicans to minimize the Latino vote, from voter ID and other suppression tactics that they're doing, and frankly, even their effort on redistricting," Aldrete said. "We got four new congressional districts, but they tried to deny that."

"That was all driven by growth in the Latino community, and they tried to deny us those seats," said Aldrete. "So there is an effort to stop it; they clearly see it as a threat."

Hispanics gained two of those four seats under temporary maps issued by federal judges in San Antonio.

"We're all for majority Hispanic districts out of the newly-created congressional seats that are coming; we just want it so that Republicans can compete on the equal playing field because not all Hispanics are Democrat," said Bush.

"I think ultimately looking at voter ID, that it's important to know just as knowing, for example, who's coming in and out of our country, knowing who is voting," said Bush.

"If we're asking for people to when they purchase alcohol to get an ID, we can probably ask the same thing if they're exercising the most important constitutional duty. So it's not meant to be pejorative to minority communities, and that's often unfortunately an argument that's used."

The 2001 law allowing certain undocumented students who have grown up in the Texas public school system to qualify for in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities passed with nearly unanimous support, but has recently come under fire from some conservatives after surfacing during Texas Governor Rick Perry's presidential campaign.

"I think at the end of the day, both Republicans and Democrats can get on board with the idea of ensuring that children that are coming through our public education system have the ability to go on to secondary education," said Bush.

"I think there are elements that upset a lot of the Republican base, and that is offering the same in-state tuition as a resident or a citizen of the state of Texas. I think there are ways in which reasonable minds can come together to ensure that if a student, say spends a little bit more time through our public education system in that their parent pays back fines, catches up with contributing their portion to the public education system or to public services, that that would alleviate some of the concern."

Aldrete questions Republicans' commitment to education.

"People are here sacrificing to have a better life for their kids, and what Republicans have done to the school budgets, put 12,000 teachers unemployed, doesn't really say that they're the party of opportunity," said Aldrete. "Especially in an economy that requires more education than ever."

As the Hispanic community continues to grow and express itself at the polls, it's a courtship that could ultimately shape the political future of Texas.

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