Republicans Seek to Bridge Gap With Latinos in Colorado and Beyond

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from The New York Times,

Under the red roof of Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant, Elizabeth Oxley and her 23-year-old daughter, Leticia, work seven days a week, from breakfast to last call, to keep pace with the price of their family’s American dream. There is a $250,000 renovation on their restaurant to pay off. Mortgage bills. College loans.

“I cannot put my head up,” said Ms. Oxley, 58, who was born in a mountain village in Peru and came here decades ago and overstayed a tourist visa. She spent years working in restaurants and food stands, and now, as a citizen, she is part of a Latino boom reshaping life and politics in once-reliably conservative corners of this state.

Ms. Oxley embraced an America embodied by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Party. Her daughter, the first in the family born in the United States, is more socially liberal, bound for design school in Manhattan and mostly votes for Democrats. But some of their ideas do not fit neatly into party dogma. The elder Ms. Oxley says that undocumented immigrants deserve legal status, and the younger sometimes chafes at paying into a social safety net when she cannot afford to get drinks with friends.

Colorado is a swing state, and the Oxleys’ restaurant sits on an immigrant-rich avenue — sprinkled with taquerias, money-wiring services and Mexican markets — both of which are likely to become a laboratory for the aspirations and anxieties of Republicans and Democrats in next year’s presidential election.

Both parties are planning an aggressive courtship of Latino voters, with Democrats seeking to cement their hold on this critical bloc and Republicans trying to chip away at that advantage, perhaps by nominating a candidate like Senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, or Jeb Bush, the Spanish-speaking former governor of Florida.

This month, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced an immigration policy in Nevada (27 percent Hispanic) that calls for a path to citizenship, and said she would support and expand on Mr. Obama’s immigration actions. Mr. Bush has made a number of high-profile appearances before Latinos, including at a town-hall meeting in Puerto Rico.

Latinos in Colorado and across the country vote Democratic by more than 60 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, and were a pillar of President Obama’s coalition in the last two presidential elections. But Cory Gardner, a Republican, unseated Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent, in the Senate race in Colorado last year after breaking with Republicans on some immigration votes.

Republicans say they revived their fortunes in part by turning away from rhetoric about “amnesty” and “illegals”.

You have to begin with treating members of that community with respect and not adopting that harsh tone that we’ve seen with some Republican officials and candidates,” said Ryan Call, the former state Republican Party chairman. “There is a danger with candidates pursuing the nomination. Some of the rhetoric and tone has the potential to alienate a significant amount of the population among our Hispanic neighbors.”

Whether they take that path may depend on which candidate emerges from primaries dominated by conservative voters. Interviews with Latino voters here and across Colorado also underscored the difficulty of scrubbing away an anti-immigrant image that has alienated potential Latino voters.

Christian Jimenez, 25, the son of Mexican immigrants who owns a cleaning business and ministers to drug-addicted youths in Aurora, said he agreed with Republicans on many issues. He opposes same-sex marriage, abortion and Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. But when it came time to vote, Mr. Jimenez said he could not vote Republican.

“Immigration,” he said. “We have the same values, but they don’t want to change on that one thing. If somebody had the right stance on that issue, I’d work for them and canvass for them.”

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