Insider Has a Warning for GOP

Politics: Respected longtime strategist issues open letter saying failure to heal rift with Latino voters could amount to 'suicide' for the party.

In a further sign of the GOP’s internal reckoning over immigration and related issues, one of the Republican Party’s most revered strategists has issued an unusual open letter warning of “political suicide” if the party fails to heal its rift with Latino voters.

Citing the Republican Party’s “sad (and politically self-defeating) history of alienating immigrant groups and new voters,” strategist Stu Spencer suggested the recent precipitous decline in Republican support among Latinos seriously endangers the party’s long-term prospects in California and beyond.

In a three-page memorandum he described as a “wake-up call for [the] GOP,” Spencer stated, “We are dramatically losing market share of the fastest-growing segment of the electorate,” and he suggested California could become “a permanent Democrat bastion” without remedial action.

“The choices we make will impact California and the country for easily the next 10 to 20 years,” Spencer wrote in the dispatch he plans to send today to party leaders. “The stakes are too high for us to act like political ostriches and ignore the challenges we face.”

Spencer’s remarks were part of an endorsement of Ruben Barrales, a San Mateo County supervisor, in the race for state treasurer.

But the greatest significance stems >from Spencer’s role as one of the GOP’s longest-serving and most respected thinkers–and the unusually blunt language he uses to publicly scold his fellow Republicans.

Spencer was a member of Ronald Reagan’s inner political circle even before Reagan was governor, and has had at least a hand in most of the significant GOP campaigns of the past generation.

“It’s like Muhammad coming down from the mountain and warning the faithful that they’d better change their ways,” said Kevin Spillane, a GOP strategist and Barrales advisor.

Spencer’s comments reflect a widespread sentiment in GOP circles that political damage was done by the party’s aggressive promotion of Proposition 187, the 1994 anti-illegal immigration initiative, and by more recent efforts to strip benefits from legal immigrants.

Without citing either, Spencer suggested that the GOP will be committing “political suicide” and consigning itself to “permanent minority status” if its leaders fail to reach out more to Latino voters. As Spencer noted, Barrales is one of only two Latino Republicans in all of California serving at the county level or higher. “If we cannot even support just one qualified Latino Republican for statewide office, then we deserve the political disaster that awaits us,” said Spencer, whose endorsement was especially noteworthy because Barrales has an opponent for the June primary, Assemblyman Jan Goldsmith of Poway.

On the Democratic side, Sacramento developer Phil Angelides is running unopposed for state treasurer.

In an interview Tuesday, Spencer offered one other piece of advice, regarding an anti-bilingual education initiative aimed for the June ballot. The measure, sponsored by businessman Ron Unz, has been formally endorsed by the state GOP .

“It’s OK if we endorse it for the right reasons,” said Spencer, who has made no secret of his distaste for the Proposition 187 campaign. “But don’t make it a cause celebre, don’t be threatening in any way.”

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