Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 4:57 p.m.
Two days after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced a new effort to sway Latino voters, including installing outreach directors in key states like Nevada, Democrats rallied Latino legislators and community members Wednesday to kick off their own campaign.
State Sens. Ruben Kihuen and Mo Denis were joined by Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, Nelson Araujo, director of community development for the Financial Guidance Center, and Eddie Escobedo Jr., publisher of Spanish-language weekly El Mundo, in launching the Nevada wing of President Barack Obama’s Latino outreach efforts.
"President Obama's record is clear. He is fighting for the middle class, for a better future for our country. He knows the success of the United States is intricately tied to Hispanic success," Denis said. "Mitt Romney isn't just not fighting for us, but he is fighting against us. Instead of offering ideas that would improve the lives of Latinos, Mitt Romney and the Republicans have embraced a tea party agenda that would disproportionately hurt the middle class and Hispanics. Republicans are on the opposite side of every Hispanic priority — jobs, immigration and health care."
On Monday, the RNC announced it would augment its forces in a handful of states, including Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia, where the Latino electorate is seen as crucial to victory.
In Nevada, Elsa Barnhill, who most recently served as presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's director of Hispanic inclusion, will lead the GOP's Hispanic outreach. Barnhill also has worked as an aide in Las Vegas to former Sen. John Ensign and organized Hispanic outreach for Rep. Joe Heck in 2010.
According to the Huffington Post, Priebus emphasized the economy and the lack of immigration reform in the past four years as reason for Latino voters to turn toward the GOP.
"The main pitch: Latinos have been hit hard by the economic recession, and Republicans say President Barack Obama is to blame for not aiding them more.
"Priebus said Republicans also were aiming to remind Latino voters that Obama failed to deliver on a campaign promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the first year of his presidency, despite a majority in the House and the Senate," the Huffington Post wrote.
"I would also remind Latino and Hispanic voters who are concerned about this particular issue that you have a president that has either lied or has been so grossly negligent ... with regards to immigration that he shouldn't be trusted," Priebus told the Huffington Post and other news outlets on a conference call.
At the Wednesday news conference, Kihuen addressed the persistent questions regarding the Obama administration's failure to pass immigration reform or the Dream Act.
"We have two very clear options," Kihuen said in Spanish. "We have the option of President Obama, who supports immigration reform, who supports the Dream Act, who supports more funding for teaching English as a second language. And we have another candidate, Mitt Romney, who very openly has said and explained that he is against immigration reform. He has already expressed publicly that he would veto the Dream Act, something that is important to Hispanics."
Kihuen went on to say he "understands people are disgruntled" by the lack of progress on immigration reform, but that he sees Obama as continuing to work on the issue while Romney is "anti-immigrant."
On Tuesday, the Obama campaign released the first in a series of Spanish-language television and radio advertisements. The series will highlight first-person stories of how Obama's policies "have empowered Latino families and communities," according a campaign statement.
Ernie Apreza, a recent graduate of George Washington University and an Obama for America organizer stationed in Las Vegas, appeared in one of the ads.
"I think it's important to tell your story," Apreza, 22, said at the Wednesday news conference about his ad touting how increased funding for Pell Grants helped him attend college. "I'm supporting Obama for a very important reason for me that I know affects a lot of other people who are in the exact same situation."