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Calling all Latino Democrats 

The recently chartered Hispanic Democrats of North Carolina will hold their first statewide convention at the North Raleigh Hilton on Saturday, June 21. U.S. Representatives from North Carolina Bob Etheridge, David Price, Mel Watt, Frank Ballance, Mike McIntyre and Brad Miller are already slated to address the convention, with New Jersey Congressman Bob Menendez, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, offering the keynote address.

"It's a clear signal from the Democratic Party that they're interested in us and our issues," says HDNC President Ricardo Velazquez of this high-level party support for Hispanic Democrats in the state. "It's recognition of the work we've done here. If you compare us to other states in the South--Georgia, Virginia, Alabama--they have about as many Hispanics as we do, but none of them have an organized Democratic chapter statewide."

Community experts plan to address the convention on where to focus local and state legislative efforts to improve health care, housing and education. Looking toward the national agenda, keynote speaker Menendez noted in a recent telephone press conference that the current Republican administration has failed to deliver in key areas.

"The president goes on Univision and likes to speak a few words of Spanish, but at the end of the day he's robbing us blind on the economic issues," he says. "He's really hurt our community big time on the child tax credit. The greatest part of this tax cut goes to the dividend package that helps less than 7 percent of Hispanics nationally.

"The president likes to portray himself as a friend of our community, yet he does nothing to enhance our standing economically, to enhance the standing of those people who are seeking to legitimate their status here," Menendez adds. "Whether it's education, whether it's health care, whether it's economics, this administration is no amigo of our community, and on an even broader case, has shown itself to be no friend of North Carolinians with its economic policies."

Speaking with HDNC officers on the phone about his upcoming visit, Menendez says, "I think that you'll have success with the Hispanic community in North Carolina because our party is truly the party which represents the interests of working families, of middle-class families in this country, and certainly of Latino families in terms of their economic interests, their health care interests, and their educational interests. We look forward to making that case when we come to visit you in North Carolina to celebrate the birth of your organization and its growth."

Velazquez says the convention is designed to broaden the group's reach.

"There are a lot of people out there who don't know we exist yet, and we want them to know they are welcome to attend," he says. "Our goal is to reach out to Hispanics who want to get involved in the democratic process. We want to meet as many new people as we can at the convention."

Registration and information are available at the Hispanic Democrats of North Carolina Web site, www.hdnc.org or by calling 667-0662.

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