Tuesday could produce new Latino stars - in GOP

In an election year when Democrats are accusing the GOP of being anti-immigrant, Hispanic candidates are poised to make historic gains Tuesday – on the Republican ticket. It’s an unusual twist on one of the dominant narratives of the election: The party that reignited the immigration debate by writing the Arizona enforcement
law, pushed for repeal of the 14th Amendment, and produced hard-hitting ads against illegal immigrants is likely to wake up Wednesday with a bench of Hispanic Republicans who will be instant celebrities in the political world.
No one will come out of Tuesday night with a more elevated profile than Marco Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker who is projected to head to the U.S. Senate. There’s already buzz about him landing on the 2012 presidential ticket as vice president, with some Republicans speculating about a Rubio-for-President bid in the not-so-distant future.

New Mexico attorney Susana Martinez is favored to emerge as the country’s first Latina governor. Former federal judge Brian Sandoval is likely to become Nevada’s first Latino governor. And in a little-noticed development, Hispanic Republicans could win three or more seats in the House – up from three now – including in some districts that are far from majority Hispanic. By contrast, the ranks of Hispanic Democrats in Congress and governor’s
mansions are expected to remain largely static, a consequence of the party nominating the fewest number of Latinos for the House since at least 2002, none for the Senate and only one for governor. Democrats may even lose one Hispanic House member, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who is struggling against Republican Ruth McClung.

“People have always tried to say Latinos are solidly Democratic, they’re always Democratic,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Education Fund, which produced the
statistics in its “Races to Watch” analysis of the 2010 federal and state elections. “They’re not. It is a community whose vote is up for grabs.” The election of several high-ranking Hispanics won’t solve the disconnect between the Republican Party and most Hispanics on immigration reform, and on its own, won’t help realize the goal set forth by former President George W. Bush and his circle of top advisers to make the party more appealing to Latinos. READ MORE

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