From the RNC
Sen. Mel Martinez, who for ten months has been the public face of the GOP, has resigned his post at the Republican National Committee.
The Florida senator and former HUD secretary was the first Hispanic to chair the RNC. As general chairman, he worked with Mike Duncan, the chairman, who oversaw the RNC's daily operation. President Bush handpicked the relatively obscure Martinez in an effort to build on the historic inroads the Republican Party made in attracting Hispanic voters. In 2000, Bush captured 30 percent of the Hispanic vote. Four years later, it was 40 percent.
But last year's battle over a comprehensive immigration reform bill complicated matters for RNC and its Hispanic supporters. Martinez, a Cuban refugee, favored immigration reform, pitting him against the party's hardliners. Last month Martinez was yet in another uncomfortable position, explaining why the Republican presidential candidates -- excluding Sen. John McCain -- opted to skip the first bilingual presidential forum sponsored by Univision, the largest Spanish-language television network in the U.S., in Florida, home to an estimated 3 million Hispanics.
Martinez told The Post: "I was hoping that there would be good participation in the Univision forum," Martinez said. "It's a very busy primary calendar, and their schedules are such that this forum didn't fit in. Now is this a rejection of Hispanic voters? Of course not. And I hope it's not seen that way."
In a statement on the RNC's Web site, Martinez said: "It has been my privilege to serve President Bush, and work with Chairman Duncan and the members of the Republican National Committee. I believe that our future as a Party and nation is bright and I have every intention of continuing to fight for our President, our Party, and our candidates."
Martinez is up for reelection in 2010.
-- Jose Antonio Vargas
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