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D'Amato urges GOP to include Hispanics

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Former Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato was clearly enjoying himself Tuesday as he addressed the New York delegation to the Republican National Convention, telling old campaign stories and recalling days when New York Republicans constituted a powerful force.

But the three-term former senator assumed a much more serious tone when he later told reporters the New York GOP must reach out to Hispanics and immigrants in order to once again become viable statewide.

"We need to make a concerted effort to get the biggest growing bloc participating in politics — the Hispanic community," he said. "I look at that community as a very hard working, family oriented community that Republicans should be appealing to."

D'Amato, 75, compared Hispanics to the Italian immigrants of his grandparents' generation who found a home in the GOP, and said today's party leaders should make the same outreach efforts.

Now head of a major lobbying firm called Park Strategies, D'Amato gave credit to President Obama for making it easier for the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country when he was asked about policy friendly to Hispanics.

But he also said the president should be faulted for maintaining troops in places like Afghanistan when they could be guarding U.S. borders against illegal immigrants. D'Amato said the party faces tough times unless it broadens its appeal, acknowledging that statewide victories are not as attainable as in his day, when Democrats enjoyed an enrollment advantage of only about 500,000 compared to 3 million today.

"Unless you have a well funded campaign or a badly flawed Democrat, it's awfully difficult," he said. "Make no mistake about it, it's a very difficult task."

D'Amato talks about the New York Republican party's strengths and weaknesses in this video:

— Robert J. McCarthy

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Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

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Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

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Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

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Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | [email protected]

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