The panel's speaking points ranged from education (with much praise for Jeb Bush’s policies during his term as governor) to the state of Hispanics in America, and how each member became a Republican, though the answer for Jeb was pretty obvious.
Overall both the speakers and the audience were much more laid back than those at some of the other events featuring Republican power brokers this week, though maybe the mood could be attributed to the mojitos served to those present.
Jeb was in particularly good spirits, citing his record as governor as a boon to the Hispanic community. Bush jokingly went on to put a twist on a famous quote by a certain Democratic president.
“If Bill Clinton is the first black president, then I’m definitely the first Latino governor of Florida.”
Bush is seen as a pioneer by many in the Republican Party for the testing initiatives put in place during his tenure as governor. He discussed how Latino students were originally “at the bottom of the pack," and now Florida Hispanic students “score better or equal to 21 states” in tests.
Bush also praised Sandoval and Martinez for their efforts to put similar initiatives into play in their states. Martinez bluntly stated that New Mexico has some of the worst education results in the country, saying she hopes to see improvement with Florida-style testing.
“We’ve certainly taken on the lead of Governor Bush, in making sure we provide better education for our students. New Mexico is 48th in the nation in education, and 80 percent of our fourth graders can’t read proficiently.”
Martinez says it’s necessary to implement a school ranking system similar to Florida’s on an A through F scale.
The Hispanic community, especially in Florida, has had a long conservative tradition, but the rising generation is becoming more Democratic. Both Sandoval and Martinez touted their success in traditionally Democratic areas as examples of conservative Latinos making headway in the political world.
Neither of the current governors shied away from the issues facing their states.
“It’s been extremely difficult in our state," said Sandoval. "We’ve dramatically improved — when I took office the unemployment rate was 14 percent in the state of Nevada. We have it down a little bit now to 12 percent, which is still the highest in the country, something I’m not proud of — something that I’m absolutely laser-focused on improving.”
Economic restructuring was the final talking point. All admitted times were tough. However, they touted the popular conservative policies of streamlining regulations, lowering taxes, and balancing budgets as solutions. In closing Bush stressed the importance of having an open-door policy in the Republican Party, especially to the Hispanic community.
“The future of our party..is to reach out consistently, to have a tone that is open and hospitable to people who share (our) values, who want to be respected and feel that they're part of a movement that is hopeful and optimistic.” Bush feels that this attitude is one that needs to be improved within the party. “The Republican Party, or the conservative cause, will be the government philosophy for as far as the eye can see. Latinos will be a principle element for why that’ll be. That is doable…if we just stop acting stupid. I promise you this is where the conservative cause is going, and thank God it is.”