A group of young Republicans, including Jeb Bush Jr., is trying to put GOP leaders in better touch with Hispanic voters.
Jeb Bush Jr. (left) and David Cardenas [Photo: Nick Garcia]
» John Ellis Bush Jr., 27
Title: Chairman, Florida Hispanic Outreach
Family: Wife, Sandra Algudady; father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Occupation: COO, Jeb Bush & Associates, which provides business-consulting services. "Dad's Jeb Bush, and I'm the associate," says the younger Bush, who is also president of Bush Realty, which specializes mostly in commercial real estate.
Roots: "My mom is Mexican. I don't necessarily consider myself Mexican or Hispanic or Latino, rather just American, so maybe that's just a younger approach. I don't know."
Political aspirations: "I'm certainly one to move forward with public service, which I feel that SunPAC is doing. I also do a lot of work with St. Jude Children's Hospital. So as long as I'm involved with things like this, I'll be happy. Elected office, I don't know. You never know. Volunteerism is the bottom line, and that's what's important. I certainly want to do that and will continue to do that."
» David Cardenas, 26
Underwhelmed by outreach efforts orchestrated by former Gov. Charlie Crist and ousted Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, a group of young, prominent south Floridians is mounting its own effort to woo Latinos to the GOP in 2012.
|Latinos in Florida Elected Office
Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority in Florida and nationally, according to the latest Census figures. While non-Hispanic populations in the U.S. grew 5% from 2000 to 2010, the U.S. Hispanic population jumped 43%. In Florida, the Hispanic population soared 57% over the past decade, from around 2.7 million to more than 4.2 million.
The demographics make Hispanics an increasingly powerful voting bloc. But anti-immigration broadsides by hard-line conservatives have alienated many Hispanics who might otherwise be attracted to the GOP's conservative outlook.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee recently backed away from passing an Arizona-style immigration bill after it sparked an outcry from the Hispanic community and Florida business groups.
Florida, says Bush Jr., "has a different situation than Arizona and therefore requires a different set of solutions. Arizona has more of a serious security issue and that's a federal issue and people need to start holding their federal government accountable."
Aside from immigration, Bush says Republican stances on the economy, education and free trade generally resonate well with Hispanic voters, and his group plans to emphasize those issues around the state. "The thing that kills me, just wandering around the Hispanic community, (is that) most Hispanics — the majority — are conservatives. They just don't know it," says Bush.