A pro-immigration Republican super-PAC led by former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez could support primary challenges against GOP lawmakers who take a hard line on the issue.
But if anti-immigration Republicans face their own primary challenges, Gutierrez said, he’d take a hard look at spending against them as well.
“We focus primarily on ‘take the vote now and we’ll support you.’ Those who don’t take the vote who get attacked by primary challengers who would have voted for it — that’s a very interesting question,” he said. “That’s also a possibility.”
Gutierrez said he would have no qualms about attacking primary challengers to pro-reform Republicans.
“If someone has voted for immigration reform and gets a primary challenger, we’ll go after them. We’ll go after challengers,” he said.
“We want to give cover to Republicans who want to vote for it — we’re going to be out there exercising our right of freedom of speech if someone attacks them from the right in a primary.”
Gutierrez was one of former President George W. Bush’s main surrogates on the failed immigration talks six years ago.
He also led Mitt Romney’s Hispanic outreach efforts in the 2012 presidential race, though after the election he was highly critical of Romney both for his harsh rhetoric on immigration and the campaign’s failure to spend more time trying to win over Hispanic voters.
“The Hispanics I know were scared of the Republican Party,” Gutierrez told CNN after the election. He cited Romney’s statement during the GOP primaries that illegal immigrants should “self deport.”
At the time, Gutierrez said the need to appeal to the party’s right wing during primaries forces Republican candidates “to say outrageous things" they have to walk back once they get nominated.