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Richard Riordan launches effort to court Latinos for GOP

May 29, 2012 |  2:37 pm

Liom02nc

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan’s political moderation and penchant for reaching across party lines hasn’t always sat well with many of his fellow California Republicans. They’ve long derided him as a "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) and soundly rejected him for a more conservative pol when he ran for the GOP nomination for governor in 2002.

Now the wealthy businessman and philanthropist is playing the maverick again. He’s launched a campaign aimed at coaxing Latinos into the Republican fold — and he’s doing it without the state party's involvement.

On Memorial Day, Riordan launched a radio ad campaign  under the auspices of Republicans Rebuilding California, a new political action committee he funded. The PAC will neither support specific candidates nor work with the party but is asking Latinos to consider “the Republican values: jobs, education and safety.”

Riordan has spent $43,000 on ads on bilingual and Spanish-language radio stations in areas where Republicans are in competitive races and there are large Spanish-speaking populations. They include Riverside, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and the Central Valley communities of Modesto, Stockton and Bakersfield, according to a spokeswoman for the new organization.

When he won a second term as L.A. mayor in 1997, Riordan received 60% of the Latino vote in the heavily Democratic city, leading him to believe there is hope for Republicans with this ethnic group.

The Spanish-language ads were read by college senior Ericka Maldonado, daughter of former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, and stockbroker Marilyn Salvador, whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico and worked picking crops in Northern California. 

Riordan is featured in the English version.

“As a Republican, I believe government should bring us jobs, keep us safe and educate our children,”  he said before urging listeners to exercise their right to vote.

California Latinos have been strongly backing Democratic candidates for years and Republican leaders have tried without much success to woo the fast-growing voter group.

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--Jean Merl

Photo: Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan at an event with charter school parents and teachers last year. Credit: Bret Hartman / For The Times

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