PHILADELPHIA – In a year when likely Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush is stressing diversity, the Maryland state party found itself heading into the Republican National Convention without a single Hispanic delegate.
Enter Alma Preciado of Silver Spring, a successful businesswoman, radio talk show host and Hispanic community leader. The only problem: until recently, Preciado had been a Democrat.
But Bush won her over, and Maryland convention delegation Ellen Sauerbrey tapped her as a spokeswoman to bring in other Hispanics. Then she picked her as an alternate delegate. Preciado became a U.S. citizen in 1989, and even though she had supported Ronald Reagan, she automatically registered Democrat, as many Hispanics do, she said.
Last fall, after a fund raiser to benefit children in Ecuador, a Republican friend arranged a meeting between Preciado and a representative from the Bush campaign. She said she began researching Bush and liked what she saw of his record on immigration and education in Texas.
So she changed her voter registration, and earlier this year she was selected to introduce Bush at a campaign fund raiser in Baltimore.
The GOP’s emphasis on family and support of entrepreneurs is part of what attracted her to the party.
All Hispanics are Republicans, she said, they just don’t know it.
Still, Hispanics continue to be underrepresented at the GOP convention. This year they are 3.3 percent of all delegates, but 11.8 percent of the national population.
“At least they’re starting to pay attention. I think it’s an outreach,” Preciado said.
Ellen Sauerbrey, Maryland’s national Republican committeewoman, said Preciado was originally recommended to her as a possible leader for a Hispanic outreach program, and when she was appointing alternate delegates, Preciado immediately came to mind.
Did it bother her that they were recruiting someone who had only recently become a Republican?
“Not a bit,” she said.
According to Sauerbrey, the appointment of alternate delegates was an opportunity to demonstrate the party’s commitment to inclusion.
State Sen. Patrick “P.J.” Hogan, R-Montgomery, called Preciado “a great example” of Republicans’ continuing efforts to broaden the base of the party.
With Hispanics the fastest-growing minority group in the country, both parties have made an effort this year to reach out to the virtually untapped well of voters they represent through Spanish-language political commercials, which flood the airwaves in Hispanic districts nationwide.
Bush’s Spanish-speaking nephew, George P. Bush, has emerged as the potential heir of a Bush political dynasty through a series of persuasive political ads featuring the charismatic young Hispanic man issuing appeals to change the face of the GOP.
The likely GOP nominee’s five years as governor of a border state have also affected his platform, and made him more attractive to Hispanics.
Preciado, for example, was particularly interested in Bush’s proposal to split immigration duties between an administrative and an enforcement branch.
“On the Hispanic issues, I think he’s hit it on the core of what needs to be changed,” she said.
“I don’t want all South America to come,” she said, “then our economy will go down.” People come to the United States because of the perception that there are jobs and opportunities, but “if we can go to other countries and stabilize the economies, we can relieve the situation on the border.”
Preciado regularly discusses Latin American issues – and more recently, explains why George W. Bush should be the next president – on a Spanish-language radio show she hosts on WILC AM90, Radio Borinquen, on Thursdays from 9 to 9:30 a.m., which this week will be broadcasting from the convention.
While she doesn’t rule out running for office in the future, she says its too soon and calls herself as a “baby at all this.” “If I can be effective and get that out to people to change some policies, that’s what we’re all trying to do,” she said. – 30 – CNS-08-02-00