RNC Hiring Chafes Top Hispanics

Ben Smith, Politico, May 20, 2009

Hispanic Republican leaders say they’ve lost patience with promises from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to hire high-profile Hispanic operatives and launch targeted outreach toward their community.

The complaints began in March, when leaders of key Hispanic GOP organizations wrote Steele in a private letter that they “were extremely disheartened that no Hispanics were considered for the post of Coalitions Director and that, to date, no Hispanics have been appointed to any other high-profile leadership roles within the party,” according to a copy of the March 6 letter provided POLITICO by one of its signatories.

The letter came in response to Steele’s decision to hire a fellow black Republican, Angela Sailor, to lead the GOP’s diversity efforts, a role he elevated within the party structure.

“If the RNC’s outreach effort to Hispanics consists simply of appointing a Hispanic to serve as Director of the Hispanic Coalitions, then this plan is a recipe for disaster,” said the letter, signed by the leaders of seven groups, including the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, the Hispanic War Veterans of America, and the National Coalition for Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.

{snip}

A former RNC insider said the committee had conducted an extensive post-mortem on the 2008 election, and concluded that the RNC should urgently prepare for an immigration debate on Capitol Hill and invest resources in Hispanic outreach. The pre-Steele leadership concluded that if the official Republican leadership were not in a position to aggressively state a pro-immigrant position, and to distance the GOP sharply from perceived anti-immigrant voices in Congress, Republican numbers could fall further and effectively end the party’s chances of winning a national majority.

{snip}

Steele responded to the March 6 letter by inviting prominent Hispanic Republicans, including the letter’s signatories, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and former Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla, to a March 18 meeting at the RNC’s headquarters.

There, people present said, Steele reiterated the commitment to broaden the party that had won him broad support from Hispanic Republicans in the chairman’s race, and asked them to send him resumes of capable Hispanic operatives and advisors.

His guests left satisfied, but say that since then, they’ve seen no action.

{snip}

Bejar and others complained that the committee seems to entirely lack Hispanic or Spanish-speaking staff, whether it’s press assistants to translate press releases or speak to Spanish-speaking media or strategists to craft a message and a plan.

“With so many experienced and loyal Hispanic conservative Republican political operatives who are on the bench, it is sad to see the RNC and the rest of the Republican Party flounder with such a vital part of the American electorate,” Bejar said.

Another attendee at the meeting, Romanita Matta-Barrera, a former aide to Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) who runs the Fluent Strategy Group, said she’d since had a series of unreturned messages from Sailor, and had walked out of the RNC recently after being kept waiting for a meeting for the better part of an hour.

“The Obama adminstration is working at voracious, macro levels of inclusion,” [Romanita Matta-Barrera, a former McCain aide] said, citing Obama’s recent invitation to the popular radio host Eduardo “Piolin” Sotelo. “We don’t even have qualified Hispanic staffers who can bring in the level of diversity and experience to how can we engage this community.”

“It makes me really wonder–How much do you care?” she said.

A spokeswoman for the RNC, Gail Gitcho, responded that the committee is still hiring, and that the RNC does have Hispanic employees, though she declined to name them.

{snip}

Danny Vargas, the chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, said {snip} “You’ve got to have at least an Hispanic somewhere in the hierarchy of the leadership so we can have someone who can at least have a voice in the decision-making process.”

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