Dems Re-Focus on Hispanics

Democrats took their fight for Hispanic votes to the president's home state Saturday, vowing to increase their party's appeal among the nation's fastest-growing minority group by giving Hispanics more resources and leadership positions.

"There will soon be a Hispanic governor in the state of Texas," Howard Dean (search), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the more than 400 party leaders attending the third Hispanic Leadership Summit. "There are people sitting in this room who will run for governor."

A strong focus of the weekend summit has been turning back the Republican Party's advances among Hispanic voters in recent years.

The summit was designed to collect feedback from the party's Hispanic supporters and help shape a new marketing campaign this fall. Democratic organizers hope to map out a key message that reflects historically Democratic values such as social justice and equal opportunity, as well as issues that need greater publicity, such as family and patriotism.

"The party has been ignoring the Latinos for decades, and it's time we say 'No more,'" said U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano of California.

Democratic elected officials often spoke in Spanish and English during their speeches Saturday. Many were from Texas, where the GOP is firmly in control but where Hispanics are expected to be the majority in coming decades.

Issues such as public education, health care, voting rights and immigration protection should continue to be party priorities, they said. The challenge will be relating that platform to the lives of an increasingly diverse Latino population, said U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio.

Dean's message to the summit included a call for a "new partnership" among minority groups, because, he said, they will become the majority population nationally within a few decades.

This direction should give the Hispanic population reason for hope, said Abraham Amoros, a press secretary in the Pennsylvania governor's office.

"Too often, we end up apologizing as Democrats," he said. "Our party has a lot of successes and a great story to tell. We ought to be proud of who we are."