Leaders from both parties verbally attacked presidential candidates in October after they skipped a presidential forum held by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). It invited all the candidates from both major parties, but just four Democratic candidates, including party frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), attended the forum. None of the Republican candidates attended.
The annual public policy conference, held the first week in October in Washington D.C., is the last one before the primaries are held.
"[Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama] thought it was more important to be in Iowa this early in the race rather than talk to Latinos," said one conference participant.
The Republican candidates, many of whom failed to show for a previous forum geared toward African-American voters, were criticized by members of their own party for the perceived slight of minority voters.
"What are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?" asked former New York congressman Jack Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee. "If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also weighed in, calling their lack of participation "a huge mistake."
Not surprisingly, congressional Democrats blasted the Republican no-shows.
"They haven't gone to a single Latino conference," Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said. "This is a message to the Hispanic community that Republican candidates don't care about us."
One Republican adviser countered that the CHCI is well known for being a partisan Democratic organization, even though it claims not to be.
"They have strong ties not only to Democratic members and to the Democratic Party, but to organizations that support the Democratic Party," the adviser said. "It makes more sense for us Republicans to do outreach to [Latinos] through Latino community groups, not through CHCI."
Several of the Democratic candidates, including the campaign's sole Hispanic candidate, begged off because of what they said were scheduling issues. Both New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Senator Obama (D-IL), for example, were campaigning in Iowa.
Senator Clinton, who leads all polls for the Democratic nomination, unveiled a platform she calls Una Vida Mejor Para Todos ["A Better Life for All"]. It includes more funding for preschool programs, fewer tax breaks for major corporations, more student-loan funding, an expansion of foreclosure prevention programs, and a pay raise for military personnel.
"Today, the American dream of opportunity is threatened by an administration in which the struggles of hard-working Americans are invisible to President Bush," Senator Clinton told forum participants. "Part of why [I am] running for president is to renew the promise of America as the land of opportunity for all Americans."
Most Popular Stories
- Updates on Everglades' Stranded Pilot Whales
- NSA Tracks 5 Billion Cellphone Records a Day
- Hezbollah Chief's Assassination Claimed by Sunni Group
- Stolen Cobalt-60 Recovered in Mexico
- Ford Mustang Still Packs Power
- Wind Power and Wildlife Can Coexist
- Allstate Seeks to Invest in Minority Firms
- Sarmiento to Handle Greeley Latin Ops
- First-time Jobless Claims Drop Below 300,000
- White House Pushes to Extend Unemployment Benefits