Penry wanders in the Latino-Republican wilderness

Senate Minority Leader and candidate for governor Josh Penry addressed the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Colorado Thursday in Denver. He said the GOP was “in the wilderness” for a reason: in his opinion, for doubling the national debt. Penry, though, seemed in the wilderness on how exactly to court the Latino vote as a leader in the anti-Sotomayor / anti-illegal immigrant / Tom Tancredo GOP.

According to the Denver Post, Penry talked about the fiscally irresponsible GOP and then said Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter was weak. We need a stronger leader and etc.

Then he gets to the reason he’s there.

“Latinos will play a pivotal role in picking everything from mayors to presidents and, yes, governors, too.”

But how does Penry try to address Latino wariness of the GOP? How does he explain and make the case for the workplace raids, for example, the Tancredo La Raza attacks on Sotomayor, the expanding ICE illegal immigrant detention facilities in Aurora (episode 13) that cost Coloradans $100 per detainee per day to run?

According to the Denver Post, he said, Republican concerns mirror Latino concerns: jobs, the economy and education reform.

On immigration reform, Penry was apparently as vague as can be:

“It should be more difficult to do the wrong thing than to do the right thing,” Penry said, noting that some find it easier to cross the border illegally than to immigrate legally to the U.S.

Does that mean he wants to reform the visa and citizenship application and review process? Does that mean he wants to build a wall on the border? Both? Neither? ¿Quién sabe?

On the topic of education, he decided for some reason to take the America-first tack and avoided mention of his vote this year against a bill allowing illegal immigrant-recent high school graduates to receive in-state tuition.

“If we don’t improve the quality of our public school systems to keep up with what’s happening in China and India and other parts of the world, America’s economy will not continue to grow,” he said. “We need to make sure that we have a workforce that is skilled and capable and ready to compete.”

These were Republican Latinos Penry was addressing. Will this kind of stump speech win over any of the great majority of non-Republican Latinos in Colorado?

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