That has to be my favorite comment from the Republican Convention in Tampa this past week, and it was uttered by the Governor of New Mexico – Susana Martinez – the first Hispanic Woman to become a Governor in the United States. Halfway through her speech she stated:
“I was a Democrat for many years. So were my parents. Before I ran for District Attorney, two Republicans invited my husband and me to lunch. And I knew a party-switch was exactly what they wanted. So, I told Chuck, we’ll be polite, enjoy a free lunch and then say goodbye.
But we talked about issues—they never used the words Republican, or Democrat, conservative or liberal. We talked about many issues, like welfare – is it a way of life, or a hand-up? Talked about the size of government — how much should it tax families and small businesses?
And when we left that lunch, we got in the car and I looked over at Chuck and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans.”
As we head towards the 2012 election I would like to reveal a few facts about the relationship between Republicans and the ‘minority’ vote.
The first Hispanic elected to the U.S. Senate was a Republican, Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo from New Mexico in 1928. The first Hispanic elected to the U.S. Congress was Romualdo Pacheco, a Republican from California in 1877. There are only two Hispanic Governors currently in the United States. Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, the Republican Governor from Nevada.
In 2005, Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, became the nation’s first Hispanic Attorney General. All five of the new ‘Freshman’ Hispanic Congressmen elected in 2011 were Republicans. Marco Rubio, a Hispanic U.S. Senator from Florida and a rising star in the Republican Party, had the honor of introducing Mitt Romney at the GOP Convention in Tampa.
Colin Powell, the first African-American Secretary of State and the first African-American Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff, was a Republican. So was Condolezza Rice, the first Female African-American Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. Even Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass were Republicans.
Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley are Republicans of Indian (South Asian) heritage who are current Governors of Louisiana and South Carolina respectively.
Dalip Singh Saund, a Republican, was the first South Asian American elected into Congress. Republican Hiram Fong served three decades in the Senate from 1959 to 1977, became the first Chinese American member of Congress and first Asian-American senator. Daniel Inouye, also a Republican, was the first Japanese-American in the House and later the first in Senate.
“I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans” – an epiphany by Governor Martinez? No, just one of many who realize the Republican Party is not the privy of one class or color, but a foundation of values and principles that transcend culture and community.
As Chairman of the local Clarke County Republican Committee I invite everyone, whether your family dates back to Jamestown in 1607, or a first-generation immigrant like me, to take a serious look at the Republican Party this election year. You will be pleasantly surprised.