- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

Maryland’s Republican Party will no longer endorse the state’s Hispanic Republican Caucus, which is led by a chairman who has publicly assailed the governor for not hiring enough Hispanics, a top party official told The Washington Times yesterday.

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

The new group, tentatively named the Maryland Republican Hispanic Assembly, is “to become an official member of the national party.”

Mr. Sutton and other Republican members — including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has said he backs party leadership — last month told the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus’ executive board to oust Chairman Jorge L. 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 of the caucus Thursday — 16 in support, two abstentions — setting in motion plans of the party to replace the caucus.

Mr. Ribas condemned the party’s move to create the assembly, saying, “It essentially means that they might as well get a coffin and bury themselves.”

He said, “It sends a bad message across the United States with the upcoming presidential election. … This will be the end of the Republican Party in Maryland. It will become a party of irrelevancy.”

Mr. Sutton said Luis Borunda of Baltimore, part of the Governor’s Commission on Minority Business Enterprise Reform, has been appointed chairman of the assembly, which has commitments from 80 percent of the current caucus members to switch membership.

“They are joining us because they believe that this is the best way in moving the interest of Hispanics in Maryland forward,” Mr. Sutton said. “This will be the most aggressive and most thorough outreach organization in the history of Maryland.

“The problem has been one guy and not the caucus as a whole,” Mr. Sutton said of Mr. Ribas.

Mr. Ehrlich said last week he was not pleased with Mr. Ribas because the chairman had violated the administration’s rule by talking to the media.

The governor also said he supported Mr. Sutton and Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane’s decision to get rid of Mr. Ribas. The governor refuted Mr. Ribas’ claim that he has not hired Hispanics.

Republican officials also have said they requested a list of potential Hispanic appointments from Mr. Ribas’ organization but never received them.

Mr. Ribas said Mr. Ehrlich initially received support from the caucus because of his message of inclusiveness, but has not lived up to that stance because the governor all nine Hispanics in the administrations are in unpaid jobs.

Mr. Ribas stressed that the caucus still wants to work within the party, even though there no longer is an official affiliation.

“It would be unfair of us to paint with a wide brush the actions of two people,” he said. “We know that we have significant support within the party.”Mr. Ribas also said he does not believe Mr. Sutton’s claims that the majority of the caucus would join the newly created assembly.

“They also said they controlled 50 percent of our executive committee and they were wrong,” he said.

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