- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2003

A top Maryland Republican Party official yesterday said members have aligned to oust the chairman of the state’s Hispanic Republican Caucus because he criticized the governor for not hiring Hispanics.

Maria Pena-Faustino, a vice chairwoman in the Maryland Republican Party, said roughly 30 members of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus have coalesced to call for the resignation of Jorge L. Ribas, chairman.

“If he doesn’t leave on his own, we will leave,” Miss Faustino, a founding member, said of the 100-member Hispanic caucus.

Mr. Ribas, who leaked a letter to the press assailing Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for the lack of Hispanics in his administration, has said he will not step down.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane, Eric Sutton, the party’s executive director, and Paul Schurick, Mr. Ehrlich’s communications director, all have said they want Mr. Ribas out.

Mr. Kane has said if Mr. Ribas is not forced out by the executive board of the caucus the party will start another Hispanic-led organization.

Miss Faustino’s comments are the first indicating members of the caucus may be bending to party pressure.

“He doesn’t represent all the Hispanic Republicans in Maryland,” said Miss Faustino, who has been one of Mr. Ribas’ biggest critics, calling him the “Rev. Jesse Jackson” of the party.

Miss Faustino was referring to published reports about Mr. Jackson’s tactics that critics say extorts money from corporations by threatening to expose them in the media as racist.

Mr. Kane has said he believes Mr. Ribas is angling for a position within the administration, but Mr. Ribas has denied that claim. He said he’s being targeted by Mr. Kane and is aware of members who are unhappy with him.

“These are 30 people who never did anything,” he said. “They are working on behalf of Mr. Kane. They are people who came to control the caucus.”

Mr. Ribas has said he is not concerned about these members leaving “because they have not been key players.”

Alma A. Preciado, a vice chairwoman of the caucus, had a different spin. She said Miss Faustino and the people she represents are not on the executive board and cannot vote.

Miss Preciado denies Mr. Kane’s claim that the organization is funded by the Republican Party. She says the caucus will hold a special meeting Tuesday on whether to stay with the GOP and oust Mr. Ribas, or to keep him and leave the Republican Party.

The caucus 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, which also has made them crucial votes. They make up 4 percent of the state population, 12 percent in Montgomery 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 statistics on how many Hispanics voted for Mr. Ehrlich in the November gubernatorial election.

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