Republican National Hispanic Assembly
The Republican National Hispanic Assembly is an American political organization founded in 1967 which seeks to promote Hispanic-American issues and interests within the Republican Party, and the Party’s interests and candidates within the Hispanic-American population. The group is partially an outgrowth of the Spanish Speaking Advisory Committee of the Republican National Committee, which itself was created as a response to successful efforts to attract Hispanic-American voters to the presidential candidacy of Richard Nixon.
In 1967, an informal meeting was held in Washington, DC by thirteen Hispanic-American men. As one participant, Francisco Vega, later recalled: “… the meeting came about by word of mouth… we were from Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, and several other states….” The purpose of the gathering was to discuss how they could increase Hispanic political involvement. Although all of men intimated some kind of affiliation with the Democrats, none of them felt especially attached to any political party.
Having had their offers to organize some kind of Hispanic outreach rebuffed by both the Democratic and Republican Party’s national offices, the dejected group returned to their hotel. Eventually, the gathering dwindled down to five: Ben Fernandez, Manuel Lujan, , Martin Castillo, and Vega. These last attendees continued to talk, bonded over their common World War II service and political ideologies, and, eventually, formed the Republican National Hispanic Council. Fernandez was selected as its first president. The next year, the name of the organization was changed to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly with Fernandez taking up the title of national chairman.
Without formal acknowledgment from the Republican Party, the group immediately began to organize chapters in their home and surrounding states. They also managed to raise more than $400,000 by the end of 1968 which they presented to astonished Party officials. Relations between the two political entities soon warmed considerably.
As part of its 1972 re-election campaign strategy, the Nixon Administration sought to increase Hispanic electoral participation. In addition to others, key RNHA personnel were tapped to assist in this endeavor and the Spanish Speaking Committee for the Re-Election of President Nixon was formed. This committee has been credited an integral role in garnering more than 35% of the Hispanic vote for the President- a vast improvement over the previous three election cycles where the Republican candidate averaged only 10%. Additionally, Fernandez and Vega occupied several important positions within Nixon’s re-election campaign, in particular, the Hispanic Finance Committee. Chaired by Fernandez, the HFC raised over $250,000 for the President in 1972. Later that year, newly appointed RNC chairman George H. W. Bush began to lay the groundwork for a more permanent organization to woo and retain Hispanic voters.
In April, 1973, Bush authorized the formation of the Spanish Speaking Advisory Committee; Castillo became its national chairman. In meetings held with the SSAC in Crystal City, Virginia from July 11 to July 13, 1974, the RNHA was formally recognized and chartered by the RNC (it is also from this point that the RNHA dates its existence for organizational purposes). Since that time, it has been the only Hispanic Republican group officially affiliated with the national Republican Party.
The RNHA began increasing their public profile by holding Annual Banquets starting in 1976. President Gerald Ford delivered the keynote address at the first such event on July 29. At that time, Oaxaca was serving as an Associate Director in the Office of Management and Budget. A “Hispanic Heritage Leadership Breakfast” series was added in 1995.
The RNHA ran into financial difficulties in 2007 due to declining membership concomitant with declining Hispanic numbers within the Republican Party. However, chairman Danny Vargas reported that new fundraising efforts were underway. Additionally, a new executive director, Bettina Inclan, was hired to revitalize the group’s image.
Nevertheless, attempts at increasing Hispanic participation at the highest levels of the RNC were stymied in 2009. The leaders of several prominent Republican and Republican-leaning Hispanic organizations- including the RNHA- complained in a March 6 letter to RNC chairman Michael Steele of the situation. Despite assurances in a follow-up meeting, RNHA’s Vargas and others would report that no movement had taken place as of a few months later.
Hispanic leaders also decried the state of Hispanics in the Party at a RNHA conference entitled “Future of Hispanics in the GOP.” Citing the debate over- and the Party’s stance on- immigration as the single most important issue driving away potential voters, Vargas stated: “We know that the party will not recover its majority until we get this right.”
The mission of the RNHA is to increase Hispanic-Americans participation in electoral politics at all levels as well as boost Hispanic-Americans membership in the Republican Party. Furthermore, the RNHA seeks to promote the philosophy and political ideology of the Party within the Hispanic-American community. Finally, the RNHA desires to create and sustain an association of Hispanic-Americans Republican leaders. To that end, a series of objectives- as posted on their official web site- were formulated:
- To promote the core principles and values of Republicanism throughout the Hispanic-American community in the United States
- To develop and maintain a strong, effective and informed Republican Hispanic-American constituency throughout the country.
- To recruit and encourage qualified, Hispanic-Americans, as registered Republicans, to seek office at all levels of government.
- To ensure candidates who represent the true values of Republicanism are elected to office and continue to represent those values.
- To adopt resolutions and policy positions on local, state and national issues and to seek to implement these resolutions and policy positions through networks of the Republican Party and other appropriate means.
- To promote and encourage civic participation
- To insure the participation of citizens of Hispanic heritage in the American political process and in all levels of the Republican Party.
- 1967-1978 Benjamin Fernandez
- 1978-1983 Fernando Oaxaca
- 1983-1985 Dr. Tirso del Junco
- 1985-1987 Fernando C. de Baca
- 1987-1989 Catalina Vásquez Villalpando (resigned to assume the post of U.S. Treasurer)
- 1989-1989 Al Villalobos (acting– completed Villalpando’s term)
- 1989-1993 Jose Manuel Casanova
- 1993-1995 Alicia Casanova
- 1995-1997 Antonio Monroig Malatrasi
- 1997-2001 Jose “Cheo” Rivera
- 2001-2005 Massey Villareal
- 2005-2007 Pedro Celis, PhD
- 2007-2009 Raul Danny Vargas – Businessman, Media Commentator, Political Activist
- 2009-2013 Alci Maldonado
- 2013-2017 Gonzalo J. Ferrer
- 2017-2018 Marlynn Burns
- 2018-present Betty Cardenas
- “Fernando Vega, ‘Re: HispanicVista Columns – Osio, Maceri, Robles, 5/14/04’ (email), Editorial Opinions at HispanicVista.com (via YahooGroups), June 1, 2004″. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- “Francisco M. Vega, ‘Benjamin Joseph Fernandez, Mr. Hispanic Republican, A Great American!!,’ Somos Primos, January 2001″. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- “Elaine Woo, ‘Fernando Oaxaca, 76; Founder of Republican Latino Group,’ Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2004″. June 3, 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- “John P. Schmal, ‘Electing the President: The Latino Electorate (1960-2000,’ La Prensa San Diego, April 30, 2004″. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- “Main page, RNHA website, October 4, 1999 (archived)”. Archived from the original on 1999-10-04. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- “‘About Us,’ RNHA website”. Archived from the original on February 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
- “John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, ‘Remarks at the First Annual Banquet of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, July 29, 1976,’ The American Presidency Project, University of California, Santa Barbara”. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- “‘Mayor Giuliani Delivers Keynote Speech at Republican National Assembly’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Breakfast Series,’ Archives of the Mayor’s Press Office, February 24, 1999″. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- “Arian Campo-Flores, ‘A Xenophobic Zeitgeist: The GOP may erase the gains it’s made with Hispanics,’ Newsweek.com, September 24, 2007″. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- “Carrie Sheffield, ‘Activist Tries to Draw Hispanics Into GOP Fold,’ Politico.com, March 6, 2007″. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- “Letter to RNC Chairman Michael Steele, March 6, 2009”. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- “Ben Smith, ‘RNC Hiring Chafes Top Hispanics,’ May 21, 2009 Politico.com“. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- “David R. Sands, ‘Hispanics wary of future in GOP,’ Washington Times, March 3, 2009″. Retrieved 2009-06-04.