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July 29, 2015

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Nevada Wonk

Frustration of Las Vegas Hispanics tied to National Tequila Party Movement

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ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

Political organizer Fernando Romero says if immigration reform isn’t tackled soon, Hispanics may strike out on their own.

What started as a casual conversation among frustrated local Hispanic activists has blossomed into a national movement.

A Mexican-American political activist from Arizona on Thursday launched the National Tequila Party Movement. The kickoff began in Phoenix, ground zero for the immigration debate.

First proposed by Fernando Romero, president of the nonpartisan Nevada group Hispanics in Politics, the Tequila Party will work to encourage Latinos to vote and run for political office. Organizers will plan concerts, dinners and rallies, including in Las Vegas, to try to incite Hispanic political activism.

"We need to be better voters," Tequila Party president DeeDee Garcia Blase wrote on the movement's website. "The Tequila Party Tour is a critical movement to work towards a massive 2012 national Latino Get Out the Vote initiative."

Blase is founder and president of Somos Republican, the largest and fastest growing Latino GOP organization in the nation. The National Tequila Party Movement is nonpartisan.

The idea of a Tequila Party was born out of local Hispanic leaders' frustration with Democrats' inaction on immigration reform and fears that as a voting bloc Latinos are a political afterthought.

Romero contemplated encouraging Hispanics to break ties with their traditional Democratic roots and form an independent political group. He wanted to model the effort after the Tea Party, not in substance but in grassroots organizational style.

The concept gained so much traction that conservative operatives co-opted Romero's idea before he could put it into action. Former Republican organizer George Harris and his partner Irma Aquirre registered the name "Tequila Party of Nevada" with the Secretary of the State's office shortly after the Sun reported on Romero's concept. They did not consult Romero.

Romero has been invited to take a post with the National Tequila Party Movement but he hasn't yet accepted the job.

"What she is doing is exactly what I had in mind," Romero said.

His one reservation: The National Tequila Party Movement was formed as a limitied liability corporation (a for-profit entity) rather than a nonprofit political group.

"They are sharp enough to know that as a marketing tool it would pay off dividends," Romero said.

Harris also was accused of registering the Tequila Party of Nevada as a publicity stunt. Harris owns a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas and a small Tequila manufacturer, Alien Tequila Spirits Co.

Incidentally, the National Tequila Party Movement already has a sponsor. It is not Alien Tequila.

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