Baca ‘Confident’ After Hispanic Caucus Meeting

Posted March 1, 2007 at 4:38pm

Despite rumblings that some Congressional Hispanic Caucus members would seek to oust their chairman in a coup Thursday, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) emerged unscathed from an afternoon meeting of the group and said he is confident that he will continue to serve as the organization’s head.

“Right now, I feel good. I feel confident,” Baca said Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the CHC’s weekly meeting adjourned. “You can’t quit. You can’t walk away from something you believe in.”

The California lawmaker has come under periodic fire since late last year when he won election to the chairmanship. Among the criticisms, some CHC members, including Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) — who has since left the group following a personal spat with Baca — have questioned the procedures used in that election, while female lawmakers have also complained about perceived chauvinism in the group.

Baca has repeatedly asserted that the election was in compliance with the CHC’s bylaws, stating Thursday: “I was elected in a Democratic process.”

“I will continue to represent the Caucus,” he added.

Numerous lawmakers in attendance at Thursday’s meeting declined to discuss whether the full Caucus addressed those complaints or others, as well as whether the lawmakers voted on any matters, such as proposals to host a new election or to reaffirm Baca’s chairmanship.

“This is tough enough without adding to it,” asserted Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Similarly, Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) stated: “We are committee to staying united as a Caucus.”

While some observers had suggested that Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) would challenge Baca for the chairmanship, the Californian called those assertions “unequivocally not true.” During an afternoon vote on the House floor, Baca and Gutierrez exited briefly to an adjacent patio for a private discussions, and then returned to the House floor where the lawmakers could be seen patting each other on the back.

Gutierrez declined requests for comment Thursday.

Baca dismissed any discussion of disunity in the CHC, asserting such accusations are “side-tracking on issues we should be addressing” including immigration, the budget and the Iraq War.

“Everybody has opinions,” Baca said. “We’ve all got to continue to work.”

But the Californian said he didn’t know whether the CHC could lose other members in coming weeks. “I can’t answer for anyone else,” he said.