With the Republican National Convention over and the Democratic National Convention about to wrap up, voters will look to political debates in October for answers to ongoing questions.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida's 18th congressional district is not one to shy away from her positions on the economy and social issues. In the interview below, Ros-Lehtinen discusses why she backs Mitt Romney and why she believes President Obama has failed the country.
Born in Havana, Cuba, she immigrated with her family to the U.S. when she was 7 years old.
She was elected to Congress in 1989. In this exclusive interview, Ros-Lehtinen admits that being the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman elected to the House of Representatives made her nervous, but that feeling has since subsided. She attributes her accomplishment to U.S. diversity for encouraging such a feat.
She is currently the most senior Republican woman in the House, and was the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida. In 2011, she became chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
She is one of only three Republican members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, of which she is a founding member. In September 2011, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Republican member of Congress to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. In July 2012, she was the first Republican in the House to fully support same-sex marriage.
HispanicBusiness.com asked Ros-Lehtinen about her current political goals and what she thinks of issues affecting small-business owners and entrepreneurs.
HispanicBusiness.com: What are the main domestic issues that will drive Hispanic voters to the polling place in this election cycle?
Ros-Lehtinen: The core issue for all demographics, including Hispanics, continues to be the economy. Our nation is in an economic crisis. Americans are having a tough time finding jobs and providing for their families.
At the same time, our children are graduating and finding themselves tossed into a discouraging job market where they would be lucky to find employment at all, let alone finding it in their career field.
The choice all Americans will be making is who best will get our economy back to creating private-sector jobs. They will be looking for leaders who will remove obstacles to the long-term economic growth and strengthen the job market, reduce the tax burden on their families and their small businesses, and help bring back the same opportunities for their children that they enjoyed.
Related: 2012 Presidential Debate Schedule
HispanicBusiness.com: What issues are not getting the media coverage they deserve, both in general and those that might concern U.S. Hispanic citizens in particular?
Ros-Lehtinen: As a former educator, I have always believed that a quality education is the best tool to combat socioeconomic disparities. Education is the silver bullet that can help men and women of all backgrounds achieve their potential and make a better life for themselves and their children.
The status dropout rate for Hispanic students has come a long way. Between 1990 and 2010, status dropout rates for Hispanics have declined from 32 percent to 15 percent. However, Hispanics remain to have the highest dropout rate over all other ethnic groups in the United States, with only 58 percent of Hispanics completing high school.
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