Thursday, August 28, 2003

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and other high-ranking Maryland Republicans called for the resignation yesterday of the state’s Hispanic Republican Caucus chairman because of his comments about the administration failing to hire minorities.

Jorge L. Ribas responded by saying he has no intention of quitting.

“I will continue to serve until the end of my term,” Mr. Ribas told The Washington Times. “It has not even crossed … my mind or the executive committee’s mind.”

Mr. Ribas, 61, said the call for his resignation is part of a personal vendetta by Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane, as reported by the Daily Record.

The caucus has about 100 members and was created this year independently of the Republican Party. It also is the first statewide organization of its kind, though Hispanic Republicans have formed smaller groups in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority group, which has also made them crucial political votes. They make up 4 percent of the state population, 12 percent in Montgomery’s and 7 percent in Prince George’s.

Other Republican leaders — including Gov. George E. Pataki of New York and Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida — have won elections, in part, by attracting the Hispanic vote.

There are no statistic on how many Hispanics voted for Mr. Ehrlich in the November gubernatorial election.

Mr. Kane and Eric Sutton, the party’s executive director, said they want Mr. Ribas to resign because he has publicly questioned whether Mr. Ehrlich is committed to “hiring a diverse administration that includes high-ranking Latinos,” according to the paper.

Some of Mr. Ribas’ most public criticisms came in a letter he sent in June asking Mr. Ehrlich to hire a Hispanic to lead the Maryland Higher Education Commission and to hire a Hispanic liaison for the administration.

The letter also stated Mr. Ehrlich’s “Opportunity Team” has not provided enough jobs for Hispanics.

Mr. Ribas later softened his comments toward Republicans, saying they were “still learning how to work with minority groups … and that is understandable.”

“It is a new experience to them,” he said.

However, he thought Mr. Kane wanted to create an organization that he could control.

“Hispanics are not sheep,” he said. “They want to contribute, but they don’t want to be controlled.”

Mr. Ribas also said Mr. Kane sees all Hispanics as “immigrants.”

“I believe that Mr. Kane lets personal matters interfere with the public discharge of his office, and he does it in such a heavy-handed manner that it is not wholesome for public discourse,” he said.

Mr. Ribas said Mr. Kane has also called him an “in-the-closet Democrat.”

Mr. Kane did not deny the attacks and said the governor and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele also think Mr. Ribas must go because he no longer serves the party’s interests. He also said Mr. Ribas is upset because he did not receive an appointment.

“I question his competence, his character, his motives and I question his honesty,” Mr. Kane said. “He is a very angry man, and he feels that best way to get his agenda accomplished is to break the trust of individuals who are committed in working with him.”

Mr. Kane said the party never received a list of Hispanic candidates and that the caucus is not independent because it receives money from Republicans.

“I am fully committed to having a Hispanic caucus,” said Mr. Kane, who plans to replace the caucus with another if Mr. Ribas does not leave.

“I just think that its leadership, or its chairman, needs to be competent,” he said.

Alma A. Preciado, an official with the caucus, said Mr. Ribas has been a “positive instrument,” but the organization is holding a special meeting Saturday on the matter.

“We definitely are looking forward to working with the Republican Party,” she said.

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