GOP lawmaker accuses Obama of using Chávez monument to win Latino support

A top House Republican blasted President Obama for what he said was an attempt to score political points with Hispanic voters by designating a national monument to honor civil rights activist César Chávez.

Chavez is arguably the nation’s most recognized Hispanic civil rights activist, who rose to fame through non-violent tactics. A son of immigrant migrant workers, he founded what later became the United Farm Workers. That group helped bring Hispanics into the organized labor movement by expanding rights to field workers, an occupation that employs a considerable amount of Hispanics.

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House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in a Monday statement that Obama’s “unilateral” monument designation was a clear attempt to drum up support from Hispanic voters ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

“This national monument designation is an unnecessary use of Presidential powers and appears to be based more on politics than sound policy,” Hastings said.

Obama employed executive powers outlined in the 1906 Antiquities Act to acquire land for the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, Calif. Hastings said such a transaction should have faced more scrutiny from Congress and local officials.

Getting Hispanic voters to the polls is the Obama’s campaign largest hurdle with the voting bloc, as his advantage with Hispanics in swing states could help color those states blue instead of red.

Obama is crushing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in polling with Hispanic voters in swing states. In Nevada, Obama leads Romney by 78 to 17 percent with the group; in Florida, he bests Romney by 61 to 31 percent.

Both of those figures indicate Obama is faring better with Hispanic voters than in his 2008 campaign against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

During a speech at the Monday dedication ceremony, Obama drew on personal themes — such as a shared status of being sons to immigrant parents — to link himself with Chávez.

Obama also called upon the kind of populism that has defined his campaign, especially among minority voters.

“And even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together,” Obama said. “I know it because Cesar himself worked for 20 years as an organizer without a single major victory — think about that — but he refused to give up. He refused to scale back his dreams. He just kept fasting and marching and speaking out, confident that his day would come.”

The monument declaration generated positive responses from organized labor and the Hispanic community.

“This monument will not only capture the stature of a Mexican American icon, but also the historic significance of his contributions as a community organizer and spark plug civil rights leader,” said Eliseo Medina, SEIU International secretary-treasurer, in a Monday statement.

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