Written by Katie Melone - follower her on twitter @KatieMelone1
Tampa -- A center-right Hispanic event held off-site at the Republican National Convention Tuesday offered voters a more tempered GOP message.
Sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Network, the event featured a panel discussion that included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico. The trio said they supported both pro-business and pro-education policies, and encouraged the inclusion of Hispanics at all levels of government. Sandoval said he searches Hispanic networks for the next generations of leaders, then appoints them and encourages them in their quests for elected office.
Urging the party to "reach out consistently" or to risk losing red states like Texas to Democrats over the next decade, Bush advised politicians to "stop acting stupid." Bush, who is married to a Mexican woman he said he spotted at age 17 and fell in love with at first sight, said that if Bill Clinton was considered the first black president, he was the first Cuban Florida governor. An advocate of Hispanic schoolchildren, who Bush said have been left behind, Bush has been critical of Republican nominee Mitt Romney's embrace of controlled borders and other immigration policies, and has suggested that Romney change his tone.
But the issue went unaddressed at the HLN event. Hispanics in attendance said afterward that they supported a more humane approach to immigration reform than has been espoused by some right-wing Republicans.
"There are two presidents that did something for immigation reform, it was President Bush and it was Ronald Regan and those are two Republicans," said Jennifer S. Korn, the executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Network. "Not everybody thinks the same way in the Republican Party on immigration, and … the majority of Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats and do a bipartisan solution on immigation reform so the party platform I would say most Americans don't read the party platform on either side. And it's really what's important what happens on Capitol Hill."
Korn added that the HLN has proposed a common sense approach to immigration reform. "We have to close our borders, we have to have a guest worker program, we need to fix the legal system because right now it takes people upwards of 15 years to get into the country," she said.