May 10, 2015


Here's the Hispanic Evangelical Pastor Leading His Flock to Jeb Bush : The Reverend Samuel Rodriguez says immigration isn't the only issue that matters to conservative Latino voters. (Michael C Bender, 4/29/15, Bloomberg)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is in Houston on Wednesday to deliver the keynote address to the annual meeting of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a group started by the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez and one that counts 40,200 member churches across the country. Rodriguez, 45, is the pastor at New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, Calif., and has spent more than a decade prodding Republican lawmakers in Congress to provide a path to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

In an interview ahead of the annual meeting, Rodriguez described himself as profoundly disappointed in the path Republican leaders recently have taken in Washington. Yet he remains hopeful in Bush's candidacy. [...]

Rodriguez: Hispanic evangelicals aren't necessarily caucus voters in Iowa, but if you do your due diligence with Pew, you'll see we vote, on average, more than other segments of the Hispanic electorate. Even the Cuban American community is shifting now from a generational perspective. There are about 16 million Hispanic evangelicals in the U.S. and it is a very staunch socially conservative constituency.

Bloomberg: Just 27 percent of Hispanics voted for the Republican nominee in 2012. How staunchly conservative are we talking here?

Rodriguez: Even with Romney, Hispanic evangelicals were very faithful to the conservative cause. Even with the self-deportation rhetoric, all that was taking place on immigration, Hispanic evangelicals said, 'We hate this stuff on immigration, yet the Republican Party truly resonates with us a bit more on traditional values than the Democratic Party.' That offers a great opportunity in 2016, if Republicans can get it right.

Bloomberg: So if not in Iowa, where are these evangelicals voting?

Rodriguez: The hotspots would be, in order, Texas, California and Florida. Nevada is one of our fastest growing chapters in the country, as is Colorado.

Bloomberg: And how is the immigration issue playing out now among Hispanic evangelicals?

Rodriguez: Republicans are alienating Latino Christian conservatives. The Republican Party has to figure out if short-term viability trumps long-term sustainability. This time around, in 2016, I would say you will not hear talk about self-deportation. Period. I would say--if I were a betting man, which I'm not--I would predict that the Republican establishment will make sure that immigration is contextualized in a way of, 'We are pro-immigration, we want to secure our borders. But we likewise want to secure our values, values that include compassion and a Judeo-Christian value system that compels us to address the issue of immigrants.' I think you'll hear that balance and nuance. And if not, they're going to end up with 27 percent again. [...]

Rodriguez: I can tell you were I see hope. I see hope in the candidacy of Governor Jeb Bush. I think Governor Bush gets it. He's not pro-amnesty, but he knows we have to find a solution to the immigration issue in America. I have a great respect, an admiration toward Governor Bush for his exemplary leadership in Florida. His multi-ethnic outreach in Florida was really amazing, and you saw the results in his Latino support base. He was able to transcend the stereotypical Republican motif. We've communicated and worked together over the years, but I have yet to physically shake his hand. I look forward to having him keynote our convention. 

Posted by at May 10, 2015 8:59 AM

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