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Greg Bluestein

The backlash from David Perdue’s decision to scuttle the Dax Lopez nomination

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue addresses the 54th Annual Wild Hog Supper earlier this month. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

U.S. Sen. David Perdue addresses the 54th Annual Wild Hog Supper earlier this month. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Republicans have long tried to build inroads toward two voting blocs that traditionally lean Democratic: Jews and Hispanics. U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s decision to kill the nomination of Dax Lopez — who as a Jewish Latino is a “twofer” — to the federal bench may have just made that a little harder in Georgia.

Perdue said in a statement he was “uncomfortable” with Lopez’s affiliation with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, which supports a path to citizenship for people here illegally and fought tougher state laws on immigration. He’s also questioned whether his final confirmation would have been “unattainable” given questions raised by other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“After a thorough review of the professional and judicial record of DeKalb County Judge Dax Lopez, I have become uncomfortable with his longstanding participation in a controversial organization including his service on its board of directors,” said Perdue. “I am particularly concerned with his continued participation with this organization and his public comments after he became a state judge. Unfortunately, our personal meeting, while cordial and informative, did not fully alleviate my concerns.”

Several of the groups backing Lopez, a DeKalb County state court judge, were relatively quiet about Lopez’s nomination for the last few months. But they unloaded on Georgia’s junior senator this week.

The Hispanic National Bar Association noted in a statement that Perdue’s early support was key in encouraging President Barack Obama to nominate him to a lifetime position. A top Perdue ally was on the committee that vetted Lopez. From association president Robert Maldonado:

“It is hard to fathom that we are in an era of such animosity that a judicial nominee’s participation in a trade association of bipartisan Latino elected officials is problematic to a U.S. Senator. Judge Lopez is qualified, experienced and well supported by a broad range of professionals for this judgeship. No one seems to be questioning his bona fides. We find it difficult to see how his association with GALEO can be somehow disqualifying. Our only inference is that he’s unacceptable to Senator Perdue because he is a Latino who believes in Latino participatory democracy.”

From Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of GALEO:

“We view this rejection and the subsequent backlash of his nomination as part of a continued attempt to muffle the political voice of the Latino community. As our state’s diversity grows, we hope to work with our elected and appointed officials to cease these attempts and build bridges for the betterment of our state.”

Added Antonio Molina, the caucus chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia:

“These kinds of partisan games only reinforce what we already know about the GOP—there is no room at their table for Latinos. They’ve now gone from blocking commonsense immigration reform and opportunity for DREAMers to depriving Georgia of a talented legal mind for no other reason than his association with the Latino community.

Then there was this statement from Mark Moskowitz, the Southeast director of the Anti-Defamation League:

We are especially dismayed that Senator Perdue and others may have been influenced by extreme voices in anti-immigrant circles, including D.A. King, founder of the Georgia-based anti-immigrant group Dus­tan Inman Soci­ety.  King has a his­tory of mak­ing big­oted state­ments about immi­grants and of work­ing with the more extreme ele­ments of the anti-immigrant move­ment.

King cast himself as a defender of immigration law and an opponent of GALEO.

“The race-baiting ADL is opposed to enforcement of American immigration laws and the equal application of the law that we have devoted ourselves to here. Lopez made it clear he agrees with the GALEO agenda,” said King, who noted his paternal grandfather was Jewish. “The repetitious smears from the ADL say much more about them than my work towards sanity in immigration.”

He was joined in his opposition to Lopez by at least three county sheriffs and 10 Republican state senators. Among them is Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, who wrote the following to Perdue in an August letter:

“Judge Lopez’ 11 years of service on behalf of [GALEO] would suggest prejudice towards law-abiding citizens and law enforcement across this county. …In my 38 years of law enforcement service in Cobb County Georgia, including 11 years as Sheriff, I have never seen an organization work harder against the interest of our state. GALEO has called for law enforcement to turn a blind eye towards criminals that have illegally penetrated our borders and then perpetrated crimes against the very citizens I am sworn to protect.”

And this letter from state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, echoed concerns raised by other Republican members of his caucus:

“Since 2004, Judge Lopez has been a member of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). This organization  has strongly supported amnesty for illegal aliens and seeks to end the enforcement of America’s immigration laws. Both by word and action, Judge Lopez has routinely demonstrated that he identifies with the philosophical  position of this group.”

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