Yesterday Luis Fortuño, the Governor of Puerto Rico said the GOP is headed in the wrong direction with Hispanics. The negative rhetoric on immigration has turned away many Latinos. I ask all to read this great piece and take note on Fortuño’s analysis. It is incredibly telling that a Puerto Rican is upset about the tone of the debate. Puerto Ricans are not impacted by immigration laws as Puerto Ricans are Americans. Read The Hill’s Prominent Hispanic Republican says GOP must change its tone
One of the most prominent Hispanic Republicans says the GOP is going in the wrong direction and must change its tone on a range of issues.
In an interview with The Hill, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño (R) said the tenor adopted by some Republicans — particularly on the topic of illegal immigration — is “a turnoff to the Hispanic community.”
“[Republicans] are going in the wrong direction,” Fortuño said. “We should be the party of Hispanics.”
He added, “There are no terrorists coming from south of the border. That’s the bottom line.”
And proposals from some Republicans to deport 12 million illegal immigrants from the U.S. are “unreasonable,” he said.
Fortuño, who served in the House from 2005 to 2008 as resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, strongly opposes abortion rights and believes marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. He is viewed as a fiscal conservative, having cut government salaries in Puerto Rico and merging agencies in response to the dire budgetary shortfall he inherited.
But he also breaks with his party. He supported the $787 billion stimulus package and is backing the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
Sotomayor is “obviously well-qualified” and “not an ideologue at all,” Fortuño told The Hill.
While respecting their right to speak out, Fortuño made it clear that he disapproves of charges by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) that Sotomayor is a racist. Gingrich has since backtracked, but Fortuño maintains that more Republicans need to respect the views of others — even if they don’t agree with them.
Fortuño says the GOP must look to its younger generation.
“We need to listen to the Paul Ryans and the Jeff Flakes,” Fortuño said, adding that neither Limbaugh nor Gingrich is an elected official.
The rising star of the GOP, who will turn 49 on Halloween, has defied the odds by winning elections in Puerto Rico, which leans left. Fortuño was one of the few Republicans who won in the Democratic wave of 2008.
Fortuño last year ran on a simple and basic message: Institute economic reforms that will put the island on a better economic footing. The message hit home and he won handily.
In a speech earlier this year, Fortuño directly addressed Puerto Rico’s fiscal issues: “In the last few years, our people have suffered the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s … a crisis provoked in great measure by wrong economic policies and an incompetent and irresponsible management of the public finances that placed Puerto Rico at the brink of bankruptcy and our credit at the risk of a downgrade to junk status.”
Such a downgrade, Fortuño said, would likely send the island’s unemployment rate to 25 percent. In May, the island’s unemployment rate was 14.4 percent.
Fortuño visits Washington regularly, meeting recently with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
One of his major priorities is boosting low government reimbursement rates for Puerto Rico. Fortuño is pushing Congress to revamp the funding mechanism as part of healthcare reform.
Another top agenda item for the governor is a bill introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D) that would establish a process to allow voters in Puerto Rico to determine whether they are in favor of statehood. The bipartisan measure has 156 co-sponsors.
Fortuño said his wife, LuceVela, urged President Obama to visit Puerto Rico earlier this year. President Kennedy is the last sitting president to visit the island.
Asked what Obama said, Fortuño smiled and said, “It’s tough to say no to my wife.”
Republicans should sit up and take note of the fact that message matters, Fortuño said, pointing to the Obama campaign’s message of hope as a prime example of how good messaging can win over voters. For the party to be successful in the future, Fortuño added, Republicans need to understand how their messages, on issues like immigration, resonate with Hispanics.
Fortuño, the father of triplets (one girl, two boys) who are now 17, laments that his party has a long way to go in attracting Hispanic voters.
In 2008, Hispanics made up 9 percent of the voting population and voted for President Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by more than two-to-one, 67 percent versus 31, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
As a Hispanic who prides himself in being socially and fiscally conservative, Fortuño would seem to make an attractive presidential candidate for the Republican Party.
However, as a native Puerto Rican, it is not clear if he can be president. The Constitution requires the commander in chief to be a natural-born citizen; a Puerto Rican is considered a statutory citizen.