Democrat-Founded Latino Group Regrets Hosting Fundraiser for Republican

Image: Raul Danny Vargas, a GOP candidate for the Virginia Assembly,
Raul Danny Vargas, a GOP candidate for the Virginia Assembly, SUZANNE GAMBOA / NBC

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By Suzanne Gamboa

The president of Latino Victory Fund, the political fundraising committee formed to bring more Latinos into elected office, attempted Monday to rescind support it had shown for Republican Danny Vargas, a candidate for Virginia Assembly.

The group held a fundraiser for Vargas in June in the downtown offices of the fund and Latino Victory Project, the advocacy and non-profit side of the group.

In a statement issued Monday, Latino Victory Fund president Cristobal Alex expressed regret over having held the fundraiser for Vargas' campaign for an open seat in the House of Delegates.

"Since that time we have learned that Mr. Vargas opposes one of our core values – support for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) – which is essential for many Latino families," Alex stated. “Had we known this we would not have hosted him.”

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A spokeswoman for Alex said he was not available for comment.

DAPA was one of the programs authorized by President Barack Obama last year to allow certain parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children to be legally in the country, shielding them from deportation. It also authorizes the parents to work legally with temporary permits. The program has been stalled by court action.

Vargas, reached by phone Monday, said he opposes the concept of DAPA because it is a "temporary thing." Asked if that meant he thought the president overstepped his power in authorizing DAPA after Republicans in the U.S. House refused to advance any immigration legislation, he said "not necessarily."

"What I would focus on is finding a way to bring people together to provide a set of commonsense solutions with set, sustainable, reliable, permanent solutions and a legislative solution," Vargas said. He said creating DAPA "pulls Congress' feet out of the fire."

Asked whether he would have voted for any of the congressional proposals or amendments that sought to repeal DAPA, Vargas said he did not know, he would have to look at what the proposal said. Vargas added that he supports Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which shields young immigrants illegally here from deportation and allows them to work.

Vargas faces Democrat Jennifer Boysko in a Nov. 3 election to replace Virginia State Delegate Tom Rust, a Herndon, Va. Republican. Vargas has previously written articles for NBC and appeared on its news shows.

Alex's statement on the fundraiser has come after complaints emerged about a flier that Vargas’ campaign circulated citing an NBC News article. The state's Democratic Party saw it as a claim he had the group's endorsement, said Morgan Finkelstein.

The party was particularly unhappy to see that the flier highlighted reference in an NBC News article to Henry Muñoz, Democratic Party finance chairman, and actor Eva Longoria, a Democratic fundraiser, and a Fox News Latino article that said the Latino PAC founded by Democratic heavy hitters "backs" Vargas.

“Republicans, Democrats and Independents Agree: Danny Vargas is the Best Choice for Delegate,” the flier reads. “Best Choice” is underlined in red.

Finkelstein said the flier implied endorsement from the two. But she said the party did not complain to Muñoz or Latino Victory Fund.

Alex called the flier “misleading” in his statement and said it “misrepresents our relationship with him.”

“We have not and will not endorse him. Furthermore cofounders, Henry R. Muñoz III and Eva Longoria are not involved in our endorsement process and were not involved in the event at our office,” Alex stated.

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Muñoz had separated himself from the support shown for Vargas. Jon Reinish, a spokesman for Muñoz at SKDKnickerbocker, issued a statement last Friday saying Muñoz “in no way endorses Danny Vargas and never has. Mr. Muñoz is a lifelong Democrat, and is firmly committed to electing Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. He does not and will not support Danny Vargas’ candidacy.” A spokeswoman said Muñoz was in meetings and unavailable for comment Monday.

Vargas disagreed with the characterization of the flier and of the fundraiser held by Latino Victory Fund. “I think many of the folks that either are part of Latino Victory Project or supporting it still see me as the best candidate for my position,” he stated.

Jesse Spodak, spokesman for Boysko – Vargas’ Democratic opponent – said her campaign did not complain to Muñoz or the Latino Victory Fund about the flier. “It’s clear to us Latino Victory Fund did not endorse him,” Spodak said. He declined comment when asked if the campaign complained to anyone else.

It’s not the first time the group has had to clear up its relationship with a Republican. In July, the group issued a statement after concerns about it possibly working with the LIBRE Initiative, a conservative Latino-focused group, on immigration reform.

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