By Rocio Gonzalez, VOXXI
There is the Martinez. The Rubio. The Fortuño. The Cruz.
Then there’s the other Hispanic causing a stir this week at the Republican National Convention: The Bush.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush , who will address the convention and televised audience Thursday, may not have any real Latino blood in his veins, but his relationship with Hispanics has been a close one for years. So much so, that he is often lumped in with other “Latino leaders” and “Hispanic Republicans” as if he was one of them.
“He is accepted as part of the Cuban community,” said Jose Fuentes, of Fuentes & Rodriguez, a Miami government consulting firm, who has known Bush for about three decades. “He was like one of us kids. My father would tell me, ‘Oye, you have to be like Jeb.’”
He was one of the most celebrated speakers at the convention for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in June and participated in a luncheon this week for the Hispanic Leadership Network at the GOP convention Tuesday where he said that if President Bill Clinton was the first black president then he was the first Cuban governor.
Coming from a prominent political family, Bush’s ties to the Hispanic community have been very valuable to the Republican Party over the years. He has even served the GOP as a tool to reach out to the coveted Latino votein Florida—and, indeed, the 10 to 12 million Hispanic voters nationwide—in an election cycle where the stakes are very high and those votos could make a difference.
“Jeb always looked at how to make key ties,” political analyst Javier Cuebas told VOXXI. “He knew how to gain the Latino vote.”
Bush’s ties to the Latino community run deep: He married his wife Columba, a Mexican, after he met her while teaching English as a Second Language in Mexico. They have two sons and a daughter. Bush has been described as an “honorary Latino” by some.
“His wife, Columba, is Mexican, therefore his three children are Latinos,” Cuebas said. “As far as I know, at least his two sons have been very clear about their Latino heritage.”
This has all been reason enough for the community to take him on as an adopted son; one of their own.
Recently, Bush has called out his own party in regards to their policies when it comes to Hispanics and immigration, where the GOP seems to be alienating essential votes. He has said the relationship between the Republican Party and Latinos needs improvement.
Hispanics seem to agree.
“I think a lot of people voted Republican because of him, but now, Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, they’re seeing that the Republican Party are very much to the extreme right and negatively affecting—it’s not supporting our needs as a community,” Betsy Franceschini, a Puerto Rican community leader in Central Florida, told VOXXI.
As VOXXI previously reported, there is a sizable Puerto Rican community in Florida. This was a key demographic Bush was able to tap into in the past, given his family’s relationships in the Caribbean island.
“The Bush family had a very strong relationship with the New Progressive Party (PNP) in Puerto Rico, even with Gov. Pedro Rosselló [a Democrat], because of their friendship,” Cuebas said. “Jeb Bush knew how to get the Puerto Rican community at a certain point. That helped him and gave him a lot of popularity, much more than the Democrat candidates he faced.”
Franceschini said Bush campaigned a lot in the 1980s, lobbying for the Hispanic community’s vote, before he was governor.
“People got to know him as a person, he spoke the language,” she said, adding that it was an advantage when trying to win over voters.
He also has won over the Republican Cubans in Miami—some of whom now see him as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, should Mitt Romney fail to win the White House this year.
Fuentes told VOXXI that it’s because he never pretended to be Hispanic, he simply just felt it.
“When Jeb came onto the [political] scene in Miami, one of the things he adopted right away was the Cuban community,” Fuentes said. “And it was very authentic. It wasn’t just because he spoke the language. He knew the trends, he knew the situations and felt them. He was passionate about it. And he was authentic.
“Always has been,” Fuentes told VOXXI.
Bush has endorsed Romney but has pointed out that the GOP needs to change the tone of the immigration discussion if they want to attract voters. The party certainly needs him now more than ever, to get back a community it has alienated.
That might be the key to winning this November.
Related on HuffPost:
Susana Martinez was the first U.S. Latina governor when she was elected governor of New Mexico in 2010. She is a Republican and the first woman to be the state's governor. Martinez, of Mexican descent, was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She was district attorney for the Third Judicial District in Doña Ana County in Southern New Mexico, a position she held for 14 years. Controversy has followed Martinez. First, it erupted when she claimed that her <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/09/09/new-mexico-gov-susana-martinez-confirms-that-grandparents-were-undocumented/" target="_hplink">grandparents first came into the country illegally. </a> She later clarified her family's past stating that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/14/susana-martinez-new-mexico-governor-clarifies-immigrant-past_n_1093443.html" target="_hplink">her grandparents followed common practices in coming to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 1900s. </a> The second controversy came with <a href="http://hispanic.cc/new_mexico_republican_governor_martinez_attacks_law_allowing_undocumented_to_obtain_drivers_licenses.htm" target="_hplink">her proposal to revoke a New Mexico state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.</a>
Marco Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 to represent Florida. He was born in Miami and is the son of Cuban immigrants. Rubio was accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/25/will-marco-rubio-lie-matter-as-much-as-politics_n_1031147.html" target="_hplink">embellishing crucial details about his parents' emigration from Cuba. </a> News has been circulating of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-schneider/psssst-marco-rubio-will-b_b_940308.html" target="_hplink">a possible Republican nomination for vice president</a> in the 2012 election. Rubio told the GOP to tone down its hard-edged stance on immigration. <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/11/15/rubio-tells-gop-to-ease-up-on-immigration/#ixzz1doct52kh" target="_hplink">According to Fox News Latino,</a> Rubio said, "The Republican Party should not be labeled as the anti-illegal immigration party. Republicans need to be the pro-legal immigration party."
Brian Sandoval was appointed U.S. district judge for Nevada by President George W. Bush in October 2005, becoming the state's first Hispanic federal judge. Sandoval is an American citizen of Mexican descent. He is currently Nevada governor. Earlier this year, Sandoval said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/brian-sandoval-endorses-rick-perry_n_961090.html" target="_hplink">he was backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential bid</a>.
Texas Republican Ted Cruz is the first Hispanic to hold the post of Solicitor General for the state of Texas. He won a runoff election against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in July 2012, and is now the GOP candidate for the Senate seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, has served since 1993 as representative for Illinois's 4th Congressional District. Gutierrez was born in Chicago and his parents are from Puerto Rico. He has been at forefront of every single immigration reform and immigrant rights defense struggle since 1993, <a href="http://lavoz-prcc.org/2009/04/congressman-luis-v-gutierrez-the-mastery-of-the-politics-of-making-the-impossible-possible/" target="_hplink">according to La Voz del Paseo Boricua. </a> Gutierrez has been outspoken against current deportation laws. In July, he and 10 other immigration reform supporters were arrested in front of the White House for protesting against the Obama administration's deportation of young people and families, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/26/luis-gutierrez-arrested-f_n_910348.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost. </a> He was arrested in mid-1990s for protesting the U.S. Navy's bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and in 2010 for protesting against the Obama administration's deportation record.
Luis Fortuño is the governor of Puerto Rico and president of the New Progressive Party, the political party seeking U.S. statehood for the island. In 2012, Fortuño has been an active campaigner for Mitt Romney, even being listed as a potential Vice President candidate on the GOP ticket.
Bill Richardson served as governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2010. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as energy secretary in the Clinton administration. Richardson was born in California to an American father and a Mexican mother. Even after ending his term in 2010, Richardson remains an active political figure. In September 2011, Richardson visited Cuba to negotiate the release of Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba since 2009 after bringing communications equipment into the island. Richardson came back emptyhanded, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/wife-man-imprisoned-in-cuba_n_1117742.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost. </a>
Alex Padilla is a Democratic senator representing California. He is the first Latino and youngest-ever president of the League of California Cities, <a href="http://powerwall.msnbc.msn.com/politics/10-latino-politicians-to-watch-9701.gallery?#!wallState=0__%2Fpolitics%2F10-latino-politicians-to-watch-9701.gallery?photoId%3D38975" target="_hplink">according to PowerWall at MSNBC.</a> He is a Los Angeles native and son of Mexican immigrants. Padilla introduced a bill in the Senate that authorized $104 million in tax breaks to help "green" companies in California when buying equipment. The bill also aimed to add jobs.
Ken Salazar and John Salazar
John and Ken Salazar, both Democrats, have identified themselves as Mexican-American brothers. Ken Salazar is the U.S. secretary of the interio. John Salazar was congressman for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, serving from 2005 until 2011.
Gloria Molina is a Los Angeles County supervisor. Molina was born in California to Mexican parents. She was elected to represent the First District in 1991 -- the first Latina to do so. She quickly developed a reputation as a fiscal guardian committed to achieving good government reforms, maintaining the county's public health care system, and addressing quality of life issues -- particularly for the 1 million residents in unincorporated areas, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gloria-molina" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost.</a> After LA County jail abuse incidents, Molina made several recommendations including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/la-county-jail-abuse-boar_n_1018683.html" target="_hplink">asking to install cameras in the jails, barring deputies from striking inmates' heads, and banning the heavy flashlights deputies carry that can be used as batons.</a>
Julian Castro is the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. First elected May 9, 2009, Castro won re-election in 2011 with nearly 82 percent of the vote. "Julián Castro is the son of Rosie Castro, a well-known '70s firebrand who was among the leaders of La Raza Unida, the radical movement in Texas that was dedicated to defending the civil rights of Mexican-Americans and promoting a strong "Chicano" identity", according to <em>The New York Times</em>. "Julin really stands out," said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor of Chicano and global studies at UCLA,<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09Mayor-t.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink"> to <em>The New York Times</em>.</a> "There are other talented young Hispanic politicians around, but few have his stature or national potential. He's from San Antonio, but he's very much admired in California. He's like Obama -- one of us, but someone who also comes out of a broader American experience."