GOP starts with basics on 'Hispanic outreach'

Posted Saturday, Apr. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy DALLAS -- For Republican clubs and Tea Party groups, "Hispanic outreach training" almost requires training wheels.

At times, the mostly older, Anglo crowd in an evangelical church Saturday seemed surprised by kindergarten-level lessons about 38 percent of Texas' population:

"Two-thirds of Hispanics are American-born," Dallas businessman Edward Retta said. "Look -- you need to get this."

"Saying not to speak Spanish is a turnoff," advertising professional Marleny Woods said. "That's my family. That's like saying I shouldn't talk about my mother."

"It's offensive to use terms like illegal and anchor baby," said state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.

"It sounds racist to us to hear someone railing about undocumented workers but not illegal employers," Retta said.

Republican women's clubs and Tea Party groups from Arlington to Frisco promoted the event at Fellowship Bible Church, sponsored by the Texas chapter of Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition.

"We're trying to learn how to deliver our message better," said Collin County Judge Keith Self, a McKinney Republican and a chapter board member.

"Hispanic voters are with us on abortion and homosexual marriage. They support family and faith."

But panelist Oscar Castillo of the I Am Second ministry said it's not that easy.

"People equate being 'conservative' with what they hear on immigration," he said.

"They hear a political party saying, go back to your places -- 'We're going to build a wall, and you can't come in.'"

Retta blamed TV and radio hosts: "Bill O'Reilly, Rush [Limbaugh], Sean Hannity, all of Fox News -- the way they talk about immigration, they are driving votes to the Democrats."

Panelists also complained about familiar Republican scapegoats: the League of United Latin American Citizens,. the National Council of La Raza, "liberal" professors and the fast-growing Univision network, which Castillo accused of "promoting an agenda."

But Woods, a 20ish advertising professional, might have delivered the best advice.

"Conservatives are not just losing Hispanics, we're also losing youth," she said.

"There's still this old-school thinking."

In the audience, McKinney Tea Party leader Mike Giles said he came because "it's absolutely critical for conservatives that we draw more Hispanics. This is a diverse country."

That was the first lesson.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Twitter: @budkennedy

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