In June, California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R) reminded California Latino voters of her opposition to Arizona’s controversial immigration law in an ad that aired on the Spanish-language broadcast of the Mexico-France World Cup game. A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Whitman had also put up billboards throughout the state saying she (would have) opposed Proposition 187 and opposes the controversial Arizona immigration law, SB-1070.
However, despite touting her opposition to SB-1070, Meg Whitman told English-language talk show hosts this Wednesday that the law should be able to stand in Arizona. Whitman explained that the only reason she opposes implementing the Arizona law in California is because it is a “much bigger state with much bigger geography”:
You know, I’m running for the governor of California so I had to make a decision, does the Arizona law make sense for California? And I have said no, I don’t think the Arizona law makes sense for California because we have a much bigger state with much bigger geography. […] Hey I understand that immigration is a federal issue, but I would say that the states have got to be able to decide what is right for the state, so I would let the Arizona law stand for Arizona. […] My view is you gotta let the states do what they gotta do until the federal government proves they can secure these borders.
Whitman likely understands that she will have a hard time winning the general election without significant Latino support. However, she also built much of her tough primary campaign around an image that portrayed her as a tough immigration hawk. The catch is that most Latino voters in California understand Spanish and English. In fact, 33.4 to 73.5% of California’s foreign born Latino population is proficient in English.
Meg Whitman’s stance on Proposition 187 is also a contradiction in itself. During her primary campaign, Whitman released an ad featuring former Gov. Pete Wilson (R-CA) who affirmed that Whitman will be “as tough as nails” on immigration. Wilson’s endorsement might have scored some points with right-wingers, but it also meant a lot to California Latinos who remember him backing Proposition 187 — an Arizona type law that was ultimately deemed unconstitutional. The law never really went into effect, but Republicans are still hurting from it. After 1994, Latino voters helped California Democrats win every presidential, U.S. Senate, and gubernatorial election until 2003.
Allan Hoffenblum, a longtime Los Angeles-based GOP strategist is worried about the potential fallout from Meg Whitman’s primary campaign. “This is bringing back all the fears that the Republican Party is a white man’s party,” Hoffenblum told Politico. “It’s depressing.” Wilson now serves as campaign chairman for Whitman.
In her interview, Whitman also claimed that the stimulus package has not created jobs and bragged that the tea party “likes” her “fiscal conservatism.”
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