GOP makes pitch to Colo Hispanics |

GOP makes pitch to Colo Hispanics

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” A dozen Colorado Hispanic leaders, including Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez, endorsed John McCain on Thursday, saying Democrat Barack Obama is vulnerable on abortion and free trade.

The estimated 240,000 Hispanic voters in swing-state Colorado have become a coveted prize in this year’s election, with enough clout to influence a close race. Thursday’s endorsements were a state GOP bid for their attention ahead of next week’s Democratic National Convention.

Martinez, who grew up in an orphanage, praised McCain for his opposition to abortion, a key stand among many Hispanics. “My mother chose to give me life. He’ll preserve our heritage,” Martinez said.

Bob Martinez, former state GOP chair, said Obama’s opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the more recent Central American Free Trade Agreement will hurt him among the state’s Hispanic electorate ” many of whom own small businesses, he said.

Free trade “raises all boats in our hemisphere,” Martinez said. “Businesses have a natural affinity to participate in free trade.” He also cited McCain’s backing of immigration reform, lower taxes and less government regulation.

Martinez spoke before a Denver statue of Joe Martinez, the state’s first Congressional Medal of Honor winner in World War II. Others endorsing McCain included Gil Cisneros, president of Chamber of the Americas business association, and Lilly Nunez, an elector for George Bush in 2000.

Although the Secretary of State does not keep statistics on race or cultural heritage, Ray Martinez said there are an estimated 240,000 Hispanic voters in Colorado who make up 7 percent of registered voters.

In response, Federico Pena, the former Denver mayor and a co-chair of Obama’s campaign, reiterated in an interview Obama’s support for what he calls “fair” trade with “environment and labor standards.”

For small business owners, Pena said, Obama promises improvements in Small Business Administration loan programs, eliminating a capital gains tax on high tech businesses, and ending double payroll taxes.

Pena also claimed McCain will have trouble on immigration. He argued McCain shifted his stand because GOP conservatives were skeptical of McCain’s work in the Senate for legislation that would have provided a path to legal status for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. McCain now says such a plan would be considered only after strengthening the border with Mexico.

Obama says he supports immigration reform that includes more border security, a crackdown on employers who exploit undocumented workers and a “pathway to citizenship.”

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