- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

A top Hispanic official in the Maryland Republican Party says the leader of the Hispanic Republican Caucus has degraded the minority group’s image within the party.

“It has not only been an embarrassment to the Hispanic community,” says Luis Borunda, chairman of the newly created Maryland Republican Hispanic Assembly. “It has also been gut-wrenching to watch.”

Mr. Borunda was referring to Jorge L. Ribas, chairman of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus.

In mid-September, party leaders cut ties with the caucus after Mr. Ribas tried in August to publicly pressure Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to hire more Hispanics to better-paid positions within the administration.

The Ehrlich administration rebutted Mr. Ribas’ claim that it has not hired Hispanics, saying it has nine Hispanics in positions and is looking to add more. The Republican officials have also said they requested a list of potential Hispanic appointments from Mr. Ribas’ organization but never received them.

Mr. Ribas has been accused by party leadership of only being concerned with promoting himself to a paid position within the Ehrlich administration.

“It went down the tube because of his self-promotion and self-aggrandizement,” Mr. Borunda said of the caucus and Mr. Ribas.

Mr. Borunda, of Baltimore, who is also part of the Governor’s Commission on Minority Business Enterprise Reform, was selected by the party leadership to be the first chairman of the assembly when it was formed in September. He said the assembly — which was formed to be a statewide Hispanic outreach organization to recruit Hispanics as “team leaders” and improve communication from the state party by contacting Spanish-language newspapers and holding press conferences — has added members in Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and Anne Arundel, Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties.

Mr. Borunda did not have a firm count of how many members the organization has to date.

Eric M. Sutton, executive director of Maryland’s Republican Party, has said the caucus was never an official auxiliary and the party has opted to rely on the newly created organization instead.

Mr. Sutton said the goal of the assembly is to become an official member of the national party.

Mr. Sutton and other Republican members — including Mr. Ehrlich, who has said he backs party leadership — in August told the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus’ executive board to oust Mr. Ribas or ties would be cut and a new organization created.

Instead, Mr. Ribas received a vote of confidence from the 20-member executive committee, causing the party to replace the caucus with the assembly.

Mr. Ribas said he was surprised at Mr. Borunda’s comments and stressed that the caucus is still moving forward.

Mr. Ribas also said Mr. Borunda may be upset that he won the chairmanship of the caucus May 14, even though Mr. Borunda had the party’s backing.

“He is disgruntled that he lost the election to be the chair of the Hispanic Republican Caucus and he has not gotten over it,” Mr. Ribas said, adding, “We wish him well.”

m’Very disappointed’

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams vented his frustration last week with the Bush administration for not sending a representative to the Nov. 2 funeral of the District’s first elected mayor.

“I was very disappointed — very, very disappointed,” Mr. Williams said at his weekly press briefing Wednesday. “I mentioned that to a number of people.”

Walter E. Washington, who served as mayor from 1974 to 1978, died Oct. 27. More than 1,300 people attended his funeral at the National Cathedral in Northwest. Mr. Williams said he was under the impression that someone from the Bush administration would be among them.

“I don’t think it can be explained,” Mr. Williams said. “We were told someonewould be there.”

Mr. Williams also suggested a few tributes to the former mayor that he called the “founder of modern Washington.” Among them, he suggested naming the hospital that is being contemplated or the new convention center after Mr. Washington.

mCrime control team

Richmond’s top prosecutor and a Chesterfield County pastor will lead a state panel studying ways to reduce crime in black and Hispanic communities in Virginia.

Commonwealth’s Attorney David M. Hicks and Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, former head of the state’s juvenile prisons, will be co-chairmen of the 22-member task force chosen by Gov. Mark Warner.

“No program to reduce and prevent crime can succeed, or have lasting influence, without the full involvement of the people in the community,” Mr. Warner said in a statement last week.

Noting that black and Hispanic people are more likely than whites to be crime victims, Mr. Warner said, “Those numbers tell us that we need to try to do more to assure the safety of our minority communities.”

mOn the road again

Critics have called him “Out of Town Tony,” but D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams says the time he spends away from the city benefits the District.

On Saturday, Mr. Williams will lead a five-day trade mission to Brussels. The mayor has participated in conferences in Europe and elsewhere in the United States.

The trip to Belgium will push his record of official absences from the city to nearly 40 days for the year. But Mr. Williams said the trips have helped improve the city’s stature and also helped create business opportunities that bring jobs to the city.

Mr. Williams also said he gets the chance to talk about issues such as voting rights and home rule when he attends events sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.

The mayor told reporters that if he accepted every invitation he gets for out-of-town travel, he would be gone about 200 days a year.

mJoining Kerry camp

The head of Virginia’s Democratic Party is stepping down to run the Virginia campaign for presidential candidate John Kerry.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Lawrence Framme said yesterday that he will resign as chairman Nov. 15 to devote more time to running Mr. Kerry’s campaign in the state.

According to the newspaper, Mr. Framme wanted to step down earlier, but Gov. Mark Warner, a fellow Democrat, persuaded him to stay on until after last week’s statewide elections.

The governor’s office would not confirm the Times-Dispatch report that Mr. Warner had chosen former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley as the new Democratic Party chairman.

The new chairman will be confirmed Saturday in Richmond, at a meeting of the party’s governing body.

mMaryland and Israel

Maryland and Israel will work together on security to help protect their respective publics from terror attacks, visiting Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said Thursday in Jerusalem.

Mr. Ehrlich, heading a 27-member trade delegation on a six-day visit to Israel, said each side can learn from the other when it comes to homeland security, and contacts among experts could combine Israeli know-how with Maryland technology.

The delegation met with Israeli port-security experts to discuss measures that could be used at the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Representatives of Maryland companies that manufacture vaccines that could fight biological attacks, as well as companies that specialize in medical and security equipment, met with their Israeli counterparts, said Barry Bogage, executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center.

Robert Redding Jr. and Matthew Cella contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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