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Leading Republican Says Dem Bill to Help Kids Afford College Intended to "Rile" Up Hispanics to Get their Votes

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With his usual air of rational certainty, KOA talk-show host Mike Rosen told Secretary of State Scott Gessler Monday that the ASSET bill, which would give undocumented high-school graduates a lower in-state tuition rate for college, is "transparently part of a strategy to court Latino voters."

"Yeah," Gessler responded. "I think one of the challenges the Democrats have is Latino voters, in my experience and sense is that, I mean, they're fundamentally conservative folks. I mean, they're oftentimes very socially conservative. They're people who put their heads down and work hard and aren't looking for government handouts. And the Democrats' stock and trade is government handouts. So they sort of have to rile 'em up as a way to try and get their votes."

Rile 'em up? As if the Hispanics are like children who should be winding down before bedtime?

Yes, Hispanics are upset, and rightly so.

As Gessler should know, with all his knowledge of Latino voters, it's the GOP that's doing the riling. There'd be no issue here if Republicans took the advice of conservative Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll and supported the ASSET bill. Then the GOP and Dems would be doing the right thing together for undocumented, mostly Hispanic, children.

If effective governments counts as courting, then I'd love to see the Democrats and Republicans do more of it.

But did Rosen even gently question Gessler's condescending and irrational comments, like he might have if a first-time caller was on the line? No.

So I called Ricardo Martinez, Co-Director of Padres y Jovenes Unidos, for his perspective on Gessler's comments.

"ASSET has passed in thirteen other states," Martinez told me. "Among them are Texas, Utah, Kansas, and Oklahoma, which are all Republican-controlled. They saw it as an economic benefit. They didn't let ideology stand in the way of common sense."

So, I guess Gessler would say that it's the GOP in Texas that's riling up Hispanic voters?

Martinez also pointed out that the ASSET bill doesn't provide any free benefits, so Gessler's statement about handouts is irrelevant.

"They would be paying the standard tuition," he said, adding that no tax dollars would support the tuition of undocumented students. "This is not a hand-out."

Rosen and Gessler also discussed the Colorado Democratic Chair Rick Palacio's suggestion that Gessler resign or be removed from office.

Rosen read Gessler a portion of an article from the March 30 Denver Post by Sara Burnett, quoting University of Colorado Professor Ken Bickers' view that Democrats are calling on Gessler to step down to appeal to Latino voters who are critical to the re-election of President Obama.

Rosen read from the Post:

Bickers speculated Democrats may have an ulterior motive [in calling on Gessler to resign or removed from office]: creating "a storyline" to appeal to a particular group of voters. Most likely that's Latinos, who are among those voters Democrats say will be disproportionately affected by Gessler's efforts, and a voting bloc that will be key to President Barack Obama winning re-election this fall.

"To me it's a sign that they think they have a weakness in the presidential election," Bickers said.

Gessler responded, "Well, it's good that we've got some good professors at the University of Colorado because every now and then they nail it. And I think that's absolutely correct as to what's going on."

So, not only are Democrats are riling up Hispanics, but they're creating a story line, with Gessler as a main character, in a cynical ploy to get votes?

I wish Rosen had asked Gessler if he thinks undocumented high-school graduates, who can't go to college because Republicans like Gessler are blocking them, see the ASSET bill that way, as an empty story line or a useless riler-upper.

Or do they see it as real? As a chance to work hard and get ahead?

If Rosen had asked questions like those, maybe more Hispanics and others who believe in all-American opportunity would get riled up.

But that wouldn't be good for Rosen or Gessler, would it?