POLITICS

U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce endorses McCain in his re-election bid

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., poses for a selfie with shop owner Aron Mercado at the El Mercado De Los Cielos mall prior to announcing the launch of  the âUnidos Con McCainâ Hispanic coalition, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Phoenix. McCain is trying to woo Hispanic voters to his re-election effort by putting together a coalition of Latino business leaders who back the Republican. (AP Photo/Matt York)

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., poses for a selfie with shop owner Aron Mercado at the El Mercado De Los Cielos mall prior to announcing the launch of the âUnidos Con McCainâ Hispanic coalition, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Phoenix. McCain is trying to woo Hispanic voters to his re-election effort by putting together a coalition of Latino business leaders who back the Republican. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The nation’s leading Latino business group has endorsed Republican Sen. John McCain for re-election.

In a statement, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Javier Palomarez cited McCain’s support for Latino business owners and comprehensive immigration reform as key reasons for the endorsement of the senator.

"We are pleased to endorse Senator John McCain, a true friend of America’s Hispanic business community, longtime partner of our association, and someone who has served the Grand Canyon State with nobility and undeniable zeal,” Palomarez said. "Our decision was an easy one. His contributions to our country alone merit our support and so much more."

A press release from the chamber about its support for McCain, who is 80 and is seeking a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, said it was the first time it had endorsed a candidate.

Last fall, in an effort to court Latino voters, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, rolled out his coalition called "Unidos con McCain" or "United with McCain."

The chamber has taken on a visibly more active role in this election cycle, launching a series of forums with presidential candidates, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Last year, Donald Trump invited Palomarez to his Manhattan office for a meeting to discuss his positions on immigration and Mexico that had earned the billionaire angry backlash from Latinos.

Palomarez later praised the real estate mogul for reaching out and for engaging in a civil discussion about their different views on various issues. But that rapport fizzled week later when Trump backed out of participating in a chamber-hosted presidential forum.

In addition, the chamber endorsed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, a Democrat, for vice president, and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, for vice president. Chamber officials said they wanted to build momentum for the major political parties to put a Latino on the ticket.

McCain is facing tough challenges in his quest for a sixth term.

Primary voting for the Senate will take place on Aug. 30. McCain is running in the primary against Kelli Ward, a former state senator and physician, and entrepreneur Alex Meluskey, who has never run for office. The winner of the primary will run against Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.

Palomarez traveled to Arizona on Thursday to personally endorse the senator.

“From uniting the nation through bipartisan legislation in the wake of 911, to leading the passage of sensible immigration reform through the Senate,” Palomarez said in the statement, “McCain has devoted his life to placing his love of country ahead of self-interest and political partisanship.”

The senator expressed gratitude for the endorsement.

"The Hispanic Chamber is the premier organization promoting economic growth and development of Hispanic businesses and entrepreneurs,” McCain said in the statement. “Hispanic businesses are vital to Arizona's economy and add to the cultural fabric of our state."

McCain has long been seen as one of the more moderate voices in the Republican party when it comes to immigration reform and has supported a number of plans in the past.

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