Dallas Morning News

Friday, July 3, 1998

Democrats Woo Hispanics
Party figures blast Republicans at LULAC gathering
By FRANK TREJO, The Dallas Morning News

One day after Republicans courted members of the nation's oldest and largest Hispanic organization, Democrats took the offensive Thursday, blasting the GOP's record before delegates of the League of United Latin American Citizens meeting in Dallas.

House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri drew loud cheers as he listed causes championed by Democrats, including opposition to "English only" and support for affirmative action and bilingual education programs.

The Republican leadership in Congress has brought forth "more anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic legislation than any leadership in the history of this country," Mr. Gephardt told the more than 1,000 people attending a luncheon at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel.

It was the same room where U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. George W. Bush spoke on Wednesday, stressing the importance of educational and economic opportunities as a way of "leveling the playing field."

But on Thursday, a number of Democrats took turns pointing out ways in which they said Republicans have failed Hispanics. In addition to Mr. Gephardt, U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas, gubernatorial candidate Garry Mauro, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and state Rep. Domingo Garcia spoke out against GOP policies.

"There is one party that believes America is stronger because America is diverse. There is one party that believes the quilt that Jesse Jackson talks about is our strength, and ladies and gentlemen, that party is the Democratic Party of the United States of America," Mr. Gephardt said.

He criticized Republicans for opposing scientific sampling during the 2000 census to ensure that minorities will not be undercounted. He also blasted a Republican-sponsored bill to prohibit bilingual ballots and to require proof of citizenship at the time of voting.

"Ladies and gentlemen, that is anti-voting, anti-democratic . . . and it must be defeated, and it will," Mr. Gephardt said.

Mr. Gephardt said that though there has been progress on civil rights and discrimination issues, "we believe we do not yet live in a color blind society." Additional action by government and other institutions is needed, he said.

"The Democratic Party will stand for continuation of affirmative action until we get to where we're going," he said.

Mr. Mauro emphasized that he favored bilingual education unequivocably, "not just if the test shows it's working." That was in reference to Mr. Bush's comment that if bilingual education programs are measurably shown not to work, they should be changed or eliminated.

Mr. Mauro also said that though Mr. Bush spoke of his desire for good relations with Mexico, the governor continues to support building West Texas nuclear waste dump 18 miles from the border. That dump, Mr. Mauro said, is strongly opposed by the Mexican government and the Mexican people.

During his remarks at the luncheon, Mr. Jackson emphasized the "moral imperative that no one should be left behind," and he urged black and Hispanic people to see each other as assets rather than threats. Mr. Jackson also appeared at a LULAC news conference Thursday featuring representatives from Asian-American and Jewish groups and other Hispanic organizations.

"We must choose coalition over isolation and ethnic glorification. . . . Corporate America must see inclusion as the key to economic growth and expansion," he said. "We must change the frame of our national debate.

"We must not succumb to the temptation of fighting more and more over less and less, fighting over scarcity, when in fact we're living in a surplus," Mr. Jackson said.

Earlier in the day, at a news conference in west Oak Cliff, Mr. Frost joined Mr. Gephardt, Mr. Garcia and state Rep. Richard Raymond of Benavides in denouncing Republican policies.

Mr. Garcia said, "Latinos are tired of being treated as a pinata.

"The Republicans keep beating up on us to try to get our votes, and they expect for us to turn around and vote for them."

While acknowledging that Mr. Bush favors "English plus" and opposes "English only," Mr. Garcia said: "George Bush is Newt Gingrich light.

"You still can't take away the fact that he is supporting a Republican agenda," Mr. Garcia said. "The fact that George Bush or any Republican can say, 'Soy su amigo' [I'm your friend] - that's not going to be good enough."