If there was any indication from CPAC that the Republican Party as a whole lacks a unified vision for illegal immigration while reaching out to Hispanic voters, the California GOP convention didn’t appear to offer any clarity. The general vibe is that the split happening within national party ranks also exists at the state level, with leaders delivering contrasting messages at the state convention.
Addressing the Republican base, gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner reflected the rhetoric of Tea Partiers and Minutemen. The San Francisco Chronicle blogs Steve Poizner as boldly proclaiming, "I'm going to be the truth-teller in this campaign. As governor, I'm going to stop illegal immigration once and for all."
Meg Whitman, Poizner’s gubernatorial rival for the nomination, wasn’t so vocal on the illegal immigration front. Her voting history merits speculation. In its coverage of the convention, the LA Times notes Meg Whitman’s opposition to Proposition 187.
The 1994 ballot initiative targeted illegal immigrants, denying them social services, public education, and medical services. Voters approved, but it was later deemed unconstitutional.
Instead of repeating the popular conservative rhetoric, Whitman is focusing a core part of her campaign on returning jobs to California. Given that immigrants play a role in the state’s jobs, be they illegal or legal, Whitman is playing it safe in tackling touchy immigration debates.
The immigration debate is also a trickle down affair, rearing its controversial head into more local California politics. Republican state senators hold differing views of how to handle the illegal immigration issue. One example is in the contrasting views of Republican state senators Sam Aanestad (4th District) and Abel Maldonado(15th District).
Aanestad seems to be in the mold of Steve Poizner, as witnessed in his response to a recent bill vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The state senator supported the governor’s veto because the bill didn’t touch the important areas of education and health and human services. Aanestad’s remarks seem to carry Prop 187 undertones.
Abel Maldonado, on the other hand, seems to be in the mold of Meg Whitman. The LA Times quotes Maldonado as saying that "We can't put up a bumper sticker during an election that says 'Viva the candidate's last name' and expect that they're going to vote for us. It's not going to happen. We can't go out and have a fiesta and have tequila and mariachis and tacos and think they are going to register as Republicans. That's not going to happen.” Invoking conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, Maldonado also mentioned that Hispanics agree quite often with Republicans. What party leaders need to do, he implied, is to be tactful in bringing that out.
Interestingly enough, Aanestad is Maldanado’s sparring partner for lieutenant governor in the upcoming race.
As the Republican Party struggles to formulate a unified position and seeks to stage a comeback at a time when voter dissatisfaction is high, tact may be key as they face an Hispanic population that comprises 36.6% of California.