- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Republican Party’s executive committee yesterday voted to cut its ties with the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus and create a new organization to reach out to Hispanic voters.

The committee bowed to the wishes of state party Chairman John Kane, who insisted that the party drop its affiliation with the caucus because it wouldn’t replace its chairman, Jorge Ribas. Mr. Ribas angered Mr. Kane when he publicly criticized Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for not appointing Hispanics to high-level positions in the administration.

“We got sidetracked. We are back on track,” Mr. Kane said.

The committee voted 20-1 with two abstentions to recommend to the state central committee that it rescind a resolution recognizing the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus as an affiliate of the state party.

Mr. Ribas, who attended yesterday’s closed-door meeting of the executive committee, had refused to resign, and his organization’s board voted Thursday to retain him as president.

Mr. Ribas said his organization will continue to work to build support for the Republican Party among Hispanic voters and welcomes the formation of the new group, whose name hasn’t yet been determined.

He said Mr. Kane’s actions to strip the recognition from his organization “creates serious problems for the credibility of the Republican Party in Maryland.”

“We [the caucus] continue to grow and prosper,” Mr. Ribas said.

But Eric Sutton, executive director of the state party, said 80 percent of the members of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus have chosen to leave the Ribas group and join the new organization, which will be headed by Luis Borunda. Mr. Borunda left the caucus after the dispute developed between Mr. Ribas and party leaders.

Mr. Ribas disputed claims that most of his members will leave to join the new organization. “I think 80 percent of our members will continue,” he said.

Mr. Ribas angered Mr. Kane and Mr. Ehrlich when he released copies of a letter his organization sent to Mr. Ehrlich asking for appointment of Hispanics to high-level administration jobs.

“We have ways to voice our opinions … but it should never become a circus,” Mr. Kane said.

Mr. Kane said the caucus can continue as an organization, but that it will not be able to use the elephant as a symbol or use the word “Republican” in its title.

The resolutions adopted by the executive committee will be presented to the state central committee at a meeting in November, where they will need the approval of two-thirds of the members to become effective.

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