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Richard Riordan Woos Latinos for Republican Party: Will They Join the Juan Percent?

Ex-L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan wants to recruit more Latinos to the Republican party, and he's putting some of his considerable money behind the effort.

Smart move: The latest U.S. Census figures suggest that Latinos will be the biggest ethnic group in California, perhaps by the end of 2013. And the GOP could use all the support it could get, especially in the Dem-flooded Golden State.

Now, here's your prime recruit:

Me. I went to a good school, hold down a decent job, and drive an okay car. I shop at Trader Joe's and own, like, two Apple products. I possess one button-down shirt (really).

Here's one thing I don't do very well: Speak Spanish. Not that I haven't tried. It just doesn't come naturally to those of us born in America, for the most part. It's like a foreign language.

But Riordan's campaign is aimed at both English and Spanish speakers, and has targeted immigrant-rich markets in places like California's Central Valley. When the GOP unleashed its Latino outreach website in Spanish, we thought it was a misfire. The people it has any chance with speak English as their primary language.

Riordan's "Republicans Rebuilding California" radio ads went out in both languages on Memorial Day.

He notes that many of the stations were run by Spanish-language juggernaut Univision. Riordan has so far sunk $43,000 of his own cash into the noble effort. Riordan, we must recognize, was never the kind of Pete Wilson, anti-immigrant Republican so loved by many in the Orange County core of the party.

He is more of a socially liberal, Schwarzenegger Republican.

But does he really think that Mario Freshfromthefield is going to vote GOP, if he votes at all? Aren't the people Riordan wants to sway a little more like ... me?

"We realize that," the former mayor told the Weekly. "We're also going into stations that do most of their business in English."

He notes that part of the problem in recruiting Latinos to the GOP is that "they also think that Republicatns don't like them."

True that.

And thus, the bilingual campaign to change minds from the fields to the fairways.

Riordan wants to measure the effectiveness of his radio ads after the June 5 primary and then take his campaign nationwide in the run-up to the November election, targeting congressional seats that could be helped by a boost in Latino votes.

The former mayor:

There are a lot of Republicans like me who care about Latinos. I got over 60 percent of the [Latino] vote [during his 1997 reelection]. The Republicans are the best for getting jobs and reforming education, much better than Democrats.

On immigration myself and other Republicans believe that immigrants are very important to our country. They're hardworking and good family people.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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