- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2001

The Republican Party, intent on keeping control of the Virginia House of Delegates, has come up with three potential Hispanic candidates to run against an incumbent Democrat in the redrawn 49th District, where minorities are a majority of the population.
The new district includes three of the most ethnically diverse communities in Northern Virginia — Del Ray in Alexandria, Arlandria in Arlington County and Culmore in Fairfax County. The district's population is 42 percent Hispanic, 27 percent white, 20 percent black and 11 percent Asian.
Local and national party officials yesterday said they believe a Latino delegate would better look out for the interests of the residents who live in what is one of the poorest areas in Virginia.
State Delegate L. Karen Darner, Arlington Democrat, has represented the former 49th District for the last 10 years. Miss Darner was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
"It's important to have someone who can fully represent the district, who understands the needs of their community," said Michael Lane, chairman of the Arlington County Republican Party. "It's a district that deserves to have someone who has the same background."
The new 49th District is the only one of the state's 100 house districts that does not have a white or black majority.
It also is the first to have a Hispanic plurality, state party officials said.
If elected, the candidate would be the General Assembly's first Hispanic delegate. Republicans currently have 52 House seats to the Democrats' 47. There is one independent. All 100 seats are up for election in November.
The three possible candidates for the 49th District seat are Edgar Gonzalez of Woodbridge, William Garcia of Leesburg and John Nande of Alexandria.
None of the three has ever run for public office.
All three live outside the district, but each has said he will move into the area.
Since redistricting was completed, a large number of Latinos expressed interest in running for the seat, local GOP officials said. The three men were chosen from 21 finalists interviewed as possible candidates, said Federico Morales, chairman of the Virginia chapter of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly.
The most difficult hurdle the party must overcome is getting the Hispanic community to vote in November, Mr. Morales said. Many Hispanics in the district are not registered to vote because they are not American citizens.
Miss Darner has faced strong GOP opposition in the past and won easily, but Republican Party officials remain hopeful and optimistic about the party's chances of capturing the seat.
"If we can get all the Republicans to turn out and get our fair share of the Latino vote, we can win," Mr. Lane said.
State Democratic Party officials yesterday said they believe Miss Darner has served her constituents well since she was first elected in 1991. One example is a pilot program she established to provide foreign language interpreters at civil court proceedings, party officials said.
"I'm confident that if any voter would look at Delegate Darner's record they would see she is an advocate of any issue that is of importance to the community she serves," said Mary Broz, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.
The Latino community has had enough with the current leadership and wants one of its own to tackle the issues that are important to them, including improving education and public transportation, and ending the car taxes, Mr. Morales said.
But it is not yet clear, however, whether the Latino community would vote Republican, even if the candidate is a fellow Hispanic. Most Hispanics across the country tend to identify with the Democratic Party.
But some state Republican Party officials said President Bush's efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community are helping.
"The Republican Party has made a real effort on outreach and the Republican message has traditionally appealed to many in the Hispanic community," said Ed Matricardi, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.


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