- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — A top Maryland Republican Party official yesterday said the party would create a new statewide Hispanic outreach organization after calling for the resignation of the state Hispanic Republican Caucus chairman last month.

The announcement comes after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Eric M. Sutton, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, and other Republican leaders asked members of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus’ executive board to oust Chairman Jorge L. Ribas, who publicly assailed the administration for its shortcomings in hiring Hispanics. The party told the caucus last month that without a change in leadership another Hispanic-led organization would be started.

“Right now is the best time,” Mr. Sutton said. “Job creation, better education, public safety, if you take our positions on those issues, the Hispanic community agrees with us 80 percent of the time.”

He said the new organization, yet to be named, would begin operating Monday.

Mr. Sutton said the new organization will recruit Hispanics as “team leaders” and will also work to improve communication from the state party by contacting Spanish-language newspapers and holding press conferences.

He said the party also hopes to extend its efforts into the Jewish and black communities.

“The Democrats have done a good job of demonizing us in the African-American community,” Mr. Sutton said.

“The Democrats, I think, have alienated the minority community,” he said “They have made a lot of promises and never delivered, and we feel that now is the time that the Republican Party start a foundation in the African-American community.”

He noted that an ongoing public squabble between the party and Mr. Ribas makes the new Hispanic outreach critical.

“It makes the outreach organization even more important,” Mr. Sutton said. “We are running a marathon not a sprint. … The whole Jorge Ribas thing is just a small blip in the road.”

He said 100 persons within the past two weeks have said they want to participate in the new organization.

Speaking last week for the first time about the rift between Mr. Ribas and the administration, Mr. Ehrlich told The Washington Times he backed the party’s decision.

“We do not vet publicly, and [Mr. Ribas] violated that rule,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “The way not to deal with me is to operate outside our rules.”

The Ehrlich administration refuted 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 said he had not heard about the new outreach organization.

“We welcome the participation of any other group that furthers the mission and objectives of the national Republican Party and the president of the United States,” Mr. Ribas said.

Mr. Ribas, however, continued to criticize Mr. Ehrlich for his administration’s hiring of Hispanics.

“These are not high-level appointments,” he said. “All of them, as far as we know, are unpaid jobs.”

“The purported actions of Governor Ehrlich and insulting behavior of [Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane] are contrary to the policy of inclusiveness of the Republican national party and the president of the United States.”

He said the organization will make public whether it will continue to affiliate with the state party within the next 10 days.

Last month, Maria Pena-Faustino, a vice chairman in the Maryland Republican Party, said she and about 30 other members of the 100-member Hispanic caucus would leave the organization if Mr. Ribas were not voted out.

Mr. Ribas has said he will not resign and says the dissenters are not members but have been placed within the organization by Mr. Kane to cause problems.

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