Aug 25, 2010
by Kathy Kiely
Republican party stalwart Bill McCollum lost Tuesday's GOP gubernatorial primary in Florida because Hispanic Republicans stayed home after he pandered to the party's right wing on immigration, a state GOP strategist just said.
"It's not what (Hispanics) did against Bill McCollum; it's what they didn't do for Bill McCollum," Ana Navarro said of the veteran pol's loss to mega-wealthy newcomer Rick Scott.
Navarro who has advised leading Republicans such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. John McCain, said McCollum alienated many of his key Hispanic supporters when he hustled out proposed legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration two weeks before the election.
"He antagonized some of his top Hispanic advisers, his Hispanic voters and his Hispanic surrogates," she said, "And the backlash was perhaps much larger than what he envisioned."
McCollum had criticized an Arizona law that authorizes law enforcement officials to demand ID papers of people they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. At an Aug. 12 news conference, however, he unveiled legislation that he said would be even tougher.
Navarro spoke on a conference call sponsored by America's Voice, a group that supports comprehensive immigration reform (translation: a bill that includes a chance at citizenship for illegal immigrants).
A Hispanic voting expert on the call, Fernand Amandi of the Florida-based public opinion firm Bendixen & Amandi, agreed with Navarro's assessment of Hispanic disenchantment. Turnout in heavily Cuban-American Miami-Dade County was less than 17% Tuesday, compared with 21% statewide, Amandi said.
Navarro was sharply critical of Scott's tone on immigration, blaming him for making the hot-button Arizona law an issue in the Florida race because he "saw it as an effective way to corner Bill McCollum."
What will the Sunshine State's Hispanic Republicans do in the fall campaign?
"I have no idea," Navarro said. "A lot of us on the Republican side are asking ourselves, 'What now?'"
Source: USA Today