September 1, 2004
NEW YORK - On paper, Diane Ortiz-Parsons of Chandler would seem to be a shoo-in to vote for the Democrats in November.
She is Hispanic, a group that traditionally breaks more than 2-to-1 in favor of Democratic candidates.
She is a schoolteacher. Teachers unions are among the most fervent groups supporting Democratic candidates.
Her father was an active Democrat who had campaigned for the party’s candidates in county and judicial elections.
But Ortiz-Parsons breaks the stereotypes. When she was 30, she realized her views more closely aligned with Republicans and switched her partisan registration. She got active in the Republican Party, and this week is one of Arizona’s 49 delegates who will officially renominate George W. Bush as the Republican presidential candidate.
Ortiz-Parsons, 49, said the Republicans are espousing the traditional values that are a strong tradition in Hispanic families. She said she believes that Bush will do well among Hispanic voters, a group that he and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry are courting heavily.
“I’m excited that both candidates realize that the Hispanic population is out there, and I’m excited that the Hispanic population has been exercising their right to register to vote,” said Ortiz-Parsons, who teaches fifth grade at Tarwater Elementary School in Chandler. “I think that gives them empowerment. It’s kind of nice to be wanted and be wanted by so many, by both parties. We are actively being pursued by both parties. You couldn’t say that 20 years ago.”
Hispanics account for about 15 percent of the state’s registered voters, according to the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. While historically they have voted heavily in favor of Democratic presidential candidates, Bush has made inroads among Hispanic voters. In the 2000 presidential election, Bush got about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote. During his last campaign for governor of Texas in 1998, Bush got 49 percent of the Hispanic vote.
“His foundation, his own personal platform fits closer with the traditional Hispanic family,” Ortiz-Parsons said of Bush. “His sincerity, his pro-life (beliefs), his compassion, his willingness to do what he believes is right. You see that in the Hispanic family.”
Growing up in Chandler, Ortiz-Parsons was surrounded by politics — Democratic politics, she said. Her father, Arnold Ortiz, was involved in the campaigns of Democratic candidates for county supervisor, she said. He also worked on the re-election campaigns of county judges.
When Ortiz-Parsons was 9, her father took her to a presidential campaign event of Sen. Barry Goldwater, an Arizona Republican who was the party’s nominee in 1964. That cemented her interest in politics.
As a teacher, Ortiz-Parsons said she is a strong backer of the No Child Left Behind Act championed by Bush and passed by Congress in 2002. The new law creates testing and achievement standards for schools, imposing standards that did not exist before, Ortiz-Parsons said.
“I honestly believe that it has been good for the schoolchildren,” Ortiz-Parsons said of the law.
Ortiz-Parsons, who is married and has a 5-year-old daughter, spent six years on the Chandler Planning and Zoning Commission, and ran unsuccessfully for the City Council two years ago.
Earlier this month, she was one of the people seated on stage behind Bush when he spoke at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
Being elected a delegate was particularly rewarding for both Ortiz-Parsons and her father, who had a chance to be a delegate to a Democratic convention years ago but was unable to go.
While she acknowledges her ethnic heritage and profession make her statistically unusual among her fellow Republican delegates, she believes that is changing.
“Twenty years ago, I might have said I was an anomaly, a Hispanic Republican teacher,” she said. “But there are more people that are switching parties, and with the emphasis to register more Hispanics, I’m sure there’s going to be more educators thinking about it.”