The ongoing heat wave has prompted organizers to change the plan for this weekend’s inaugural Tequila Party political event in Wichita.
The group is moving the event from Saturday afternoon to Friday evening and will share the stage at the Nomar International Marketplace with a local band instead of bringing in outside talent, said Dennis Romero, Kansas state director for the Tequila Party.
The Tequila Party had planned to launch its drive to register and mobilize Latino voters for the 2012 election with an outdoor concert by PGEEZ, a Chicago rap artist of Mexican and Brazilian descent.
But organizers decided it’s simply too hot right now and plan to reschedule his appearance for the fall, when it will be cooler and the show will draw a larger turnout, Romero said.
In Kansas, the Tequila Party’s primary goal is to register as many voters as possible before a new state law takes effect requiring new registrants to provide documental proof of citizenship. Opponents of the new law say it will render mass public registration drives impractical because few people carry their birth certificate, passport or other required citizenship documentation with them.
With the slogan “Your shot for change,” the Tequila Party is positioning itself as a Hispanic alternative to the Tea Party movement that energized conservatives and boosted Republican gains in last year’s elections across the country.
While it hasn’t aligned with either major political party, the Tequila Party movement has adopted voting rights and immigration reform as signature issues.
Hispanics are the country’s largest and fastest-growing minority group, but historically tend toward low registration and voting turnout.
Romero said the Tequila Party plans to hold events monthly as kind of a “birthday party,” to register Hispanics youths who come of voting age in that month, but may come from homes where their parents did not have a history of voting in either the United States or their country of origin.
The movement began in Arizona out of opposition to that state’s strict immigration law, which was primarily written by Kris Kobach, a longtime opponent of illegal immigration who now serves as Kansas secretary of state. Kobach was also the driving force behind the Kansas voter ID law, which passed the Legislature earlier this year.
The Tequila Party’s position is that laws like Arizona’s, which require police to check the immigration status of people they suspect of being in the United States illegally, will lead to profiling and harrassment of U.S. citizens of Latin-American descent. Enforcement of the Arizona law is on hold until courts make a final ruling on its constitutionality.
Despite their opposition on his legislative issues, Kobach has expressed support for the Tequila Party’s efforts to register and boost turnout among Hispanic voters.
The Tequila Party also strongly supports the stalled “Dream Act,” a federal bill that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and either complete a college degree or serve in the military.
Friday’s event in Wichita will feature speeches by “dreamers” from the Kansas City area, Romero said.
The Tequila Party’s national chairwoman, DeeDee Garcia Blase, will be flying in to Wichita to address Friday’s gathering, Romero said.
Garcia Blase was the founder of the Republican Hispanic group “Somos Republicans,” but recently changed to her registration to neutral to reflect the Tequila Party’s stated nonpartisanship.
She said her speech will touch on a variety of themes, from Kansas Rep. Virgil Peck’s ill-advised joke about shooting illegal immigrants from helicopters like feral hogs; to questions over how Kobach can fulfill his state duties while campaigning around the country for anti-immigrant laws; to criticism of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who supports immigration amnesty and government entitlements for Cubans but embraces the Tea Party’s hard line on immigrants from other Latin-American countries.
Of Hispanics’ lack of political clout, “We can either whine or do something about it,” she said. “They (politicians) will have respect for us when we vote consistently in primary and general elections.”
She said she contacted both Kansas political parties about participating in the Tequila Party event. Democrats offered to help with the registration drive while state Republicans didn’t return her calls, she said.
Friday’s Tequila Party event will join with a previously scheduled appearance by the local band “Lady and the Tramps,” which plays classic rock, Romero said.
The event is scheduled to run from 6-10 p.m. at Nomar, an open-air marketplace west of the intersection of Broadway and 21st Street North.