Thursday, December 9, 2004

Hispanic lawmakers: Democrats must do more capture Hispanic vote

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic Party has neglected Hispanic voters for a decade and risks severe election losses unless it changes course, Hispanic lawmakers wrote party leaders Thursday.

"It is time for the leadership of the Democratic Party to face the facts. ... Republicans have been committed, methodical and are clearly winning the battle for the Hispanic voters," said the letter by the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

"If Democrats do not undertake a major paradigm shift in how they deal with (the) Latino vote, the future of the party is in serious jeopardy," the lawmakers said. "If the recent trends hold, several current Democratic strongholds will soon become swing states."

The letter was going to members of the Democratic National Committee's executive committee, which was beginning meetings Friday in Orlando, Florida.

The letter includes the demand that "any future chair have a serious plan (for) changing this dynamic." The DNC will choose a new leader in February, and potential candidates will make pitches in Orlando to state party heads. (Related story)

The Republican Party stepped up its efforts to woo Hispanic voters after a poor showing in the 1996 election. The work has paid off: President Bush claimed 35 percent of Hispanic voters in 2000 and at least 40 percent November 2, according to exit polls. (Related story)

The lawmaker's letter says Democrats must stop this trend by treating Hispanic voters as a swing vote, not as part of their base, and improving their message to Hispanics.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.