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Immigration Advocates Eye New GOP Florida Senator

Immigration advocates are wondering what the newly chosen Florida senator-to-be, George LeMieux (R), is going to mean for their campaign for immigration reform — as well as how the pick could influence how the growing number of Latino voters view the Republican Party.

Harsh questioning by Republicans of then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, confirmed earlier this month, has likely soured some Latinos on the GOP, and the warnings from conservative restrictionist groups that universal health care will waste taxpayer money on illegal immigrants hasn’t helped.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist chose LeMieux, his former chief of staff and close friend, to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, who’s long been a strong advocate of immigration reform. Because LeMieux has never before held office, it’s hard to know how he’ll address this issue — a huge one in Florida.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said in a statement released today:

“All across America, the Republican Party’s rhetoric and actions on immigration reform have sent Latino voters into the Democratic camp these past several years. In the 2008 Presidential race, the Latino vote in Florida swung 27 points from Republican to Democrat compared to 2004, and immigration reform is a defining issue for this group of voters. Martinez was right to point his Party toward a new direction, and all eyes are on Governor Crist and George LeMieux to see if they will follow through and embrace a more inclusive stance on issues of importance to this group—issues like comprehensive immigration reform.”

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