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Dear Mitt: Not That You Care, But to Latino Voters, Pete “Prop 187” Wilson Is Still “El Diablo”

by Mahwish Khan on 02/07/2012 at 4:42pm

Pete WilsonCalifornia Proposition 187 was a 1994 ballot initiative to prohibit undocumented immigrants from health care, public education, and other social services.

At the time, Gov. Pete Wilson was its most ardent supporter. And now, former Gov. Pete Wilson is Mitt Romney’s. 

Yesterday, the Romney press camp sent out a statement touting the endorsement from the latest member of Mitt’s anti-immigrant task force:  

“I’m honored to have Governor Pete Wilson’s support, because he’s one of California’s most accomplished leaders,” said Romney.

And the feeling between the two is mutual. In the same press statement, Wilson waxes poetic about the former governor of Massachusetts, claiming that only Mitt has the qualities to “restore America’s strength and credibility, and win back respect for America from both our friends and our enemies.”

Maybe not from your enemies, Wilson. Peter Wilson, who will serve as honorary chairman of Romney’s California campaign, is well known in the Latino community as “El Diablo,” which translates quite literally to “the Devil.” So hated was he that the bill he championed mobilized enough Latino voters to vote Democratic. California has been blue ever since.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

An analysis today on Univision, the Spanish-language network, passed around by the Democratic National Committee, speculated that the Wilson endorsement “could further wreck (Romney’s) reputation with Latino voters, the fastest-growing voting bloc, in the general election.”

Latino voters will play a key role in new battleground states like Colorado, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona.  On a press call, this Thursday at noon EST, pollsters and political experts will discuss how the issue of immigration has influenced politics since the days of Proposition 187; the numbers behind the Latino vote in key states like Nevada and Colorado; and the impact Latino voters will have on the general election. 

Will Mitt Romney’s embrace of Pete Wilson, Kris Kobach, and other luminaries in the anti-immigrant movement help him or hurt him in the general election?  What lessons do Republicans in these purple states need to learn from the California experience?  What does the name “Pete Wilson” mean to entire generation of Latinos—and how personal is the issue of immigration to Latino voters? 

The answer to these questions and more, here, on Thursday. Follow us on twitter for a live-tweet of the call. 

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