McCain Speaks with Latino Business Leaders in Santa Ana

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Republican presidential candidate John McCain spoke to the Orange County Hispanic Small Business Roundtable today. The country's financial turmoil topped the agenda. The stop was part of the likely GOP nominee's three-day campaign swing through the Golden State. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports.

Frank Stoltze: Outgoing eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman moderated the discussion at a Latino-owned print shop in Santa Ana. Whitman recently joined the McCain campaign as a national co-chair.

Meg Whitman: We want to hear from all of you, and this is really an opportunity for the senator and myself to hear the challenges of your business...

Stoltze: About 100 Orange County Latino leaders attended the session, including Ron Cedilos. He runs a development company called Sierra Partners.

Ron Cedilos: With the liquidity crisis taking place, we don't know that we'll have a viable business model without some resolution of that.
John McCain: I am hopeful that the worst is over.

Stoltze: McCain offered no specific plan to address the nation's financial turmoil. He promised to consider all proposals. The Arizona senator did criticize "rampant speculation" in the home loan industry.

John McCain: It's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly – whether they're big banks or small borrowers.

Stoltze: Later, McCain said the government's bailout of Bear Stearns was necessary to stabilize confidence in the markets.

Other participants in the meeting raised concerns about rising food prices and the health insurance crisis. Immigration never surfaced in the discussion. Mario Rodriquez says McCain's record on that issue is big reason Latinos like him. Rodriquez heads Hispanic 100, a Latino leadership group in Orange County.

Mario Rodriquez: This senator a year ago put his candidacy on the line on immigration, knowing that it was not going to be popular among certain ranks of the Republican Party. And this is a man of conviction.

Priscilla Lopez: I was impressed. Ya know, I'm normally a Democrat.

Stoltze: Pricilla Lopez runs the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She plans to vote for McCain in the November election if he faces off against Barack Obama. She says Obama doesn't have enough experience. She hasn't decided who she'll vote for if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

Most in attendance were Republicans who supported McCain. As the event wrapped up, workers returned to their jobs inside the cavernous print shop. Tim Levoit says he liked what he heard from McCain. But he isn't sure he'd vote for him.

Tim Levoit: Ya know, I've seen a lot of pictures of him close to Bush, and I'm not sure if he shares exactly the same ideas as Bush does.

Stoltze: Bill Bradley edits New West Notes, a political blog on California. He says McCain may not win heavily-Democratic California with Latino support, but the editor believes that Latinos could help swing a few states in the general election.

Bill Bradley: Nevada, for example. New Mexico. Colorado. Those are states with large Latino populations. If he's able to play in the Latino community in California, or at least be credible, then that amplifies across the country.

Stoltze: Bradley also notes McCain's scheduled three public events in three days in California, and six campaign fundraisers in moneyed enclaves from Newport Beach to Palm Desert to Bel Air to Pebble Beach.