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Mitt Romney touts endorsement by former Gov. Pete Wilson

February 6, 2012 |  4:04 pm

 

Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who Monday endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination

Mitt Romney on Monday announced his endorsement by former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who became both honorary chairman of Romney's campaign in California and a quick target of immigrant rights groups.

In a statement released by the Romney campaign, Wilson said: "Mitt Romney is an enthusiastic believer in American exceptionalism and has been a spectacular example of it." Wilson cited Romney's record in business, his management of the 2002 Winter Olympics and his governorship in Massachusetts.

Romney, who has been rolling out endorsements to build momentum after his back-to-back wins in Nevada and Florida, called Wilson "one of California's most accomplished leaders."

But immigrant rights groups were quick to pounce on the association. Wilson has become a boogeyman in California politics due to his backing of Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure targeting illegal immigrants that many analysts believe chased California Latinos into the Democratic party and lost the state for the GOP.

Romney has staked out an increasingly tough stance on illegal immigration during the Republican primaries this year to differentiate himself from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

"Romney can’t seem to stop himself from digging deeper and deeper into his hole with Latino voters," said Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union in a statement. "Here is what Pete Wilson accomplished: He turned Latino voters against the GOP brand."

Medina and other immigrant groups were quick to note that Romney is also being advised by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write controversial laws against illegal immigration in Alabama and Arizona.

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--Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento

File photo: Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who Monday endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination. Credit: Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times

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