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Hermandad Probe Begets Another New Coalition

Politics: Group takes no stance on guilt but urges swift end to investigation of alleged voter fraud to dispel cloud over Latinos and other minorities.

September 10, 1997|JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — In what is becoming a common occurrence in Southern California, Latino, labor and other activists Tuesday announced the formation of another coalition to fight the fallout from the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional voter fraud investigation.

Organizers said that before the announcement, 200 people attended a breakfast meeting at Salgado Community Center to fine-tune strategy that will include a letter to Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi urging a swift conclusion to his investigation. The group, the Orange County Community Forum, also will send a letter to the federal grand jury asking it to examine Capizzi's investigation.

Forum members said they are not taking a stance on whether Hermandad and its director, Nativo V. Lopez, participated in any alleged wrongdoing. Rather, they just want a resolution.

"If [Lopez] is guilty, let's send him to jail," said Alex Nogales, chairman of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "Let's not use him as a political football."

The forum is at least the third coalition of its kind established this year. But co-chairman Amin David, president of Los Amigos of Orange County, said the large turnout gives his group more clout. "We are going on the offensive," he said. "We cannot tolerate, any longer, the guillotine above our heads."

Hermandad is the focus of investigations into the alleged registration of noncitizens to vote in the November 1996 election. Republican Robert K. Dornan has blamed the 984-vote loss of his 46th District House seat to Democrat Loretta Sanchez on illegal voters.

David said that until the district attorney makes public the results of the investigation, Latinos and other minorities will be unfairly tagged as illegal voters.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Guy Ormes, who is in charge of special assignments, said the investigation is proceeding: "We're not sitting on our hands. . . . We are moving forward."

Ormes said he did not know when the office would complete the inquiry and that investigators received new information about the case last week. He declined to characterize it.

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California Secretary of State Bill Jones' office is expected to wrap up its investigation by fall, said spokeswoman Beth Miller. "There is a concern on Jones' part not to rush to judgment," she said.

In addition, no charges have been filed in the nearly yearlong inquiry by the House Oversight Committee.

The forum said it also will launch voter registration and citizenship drives, although it does not have any funds.

The forum said it would not support individual candidates, but will focus efforts in the 46th District on citizenship and voter registration.

Coalitions such as the one announced Tuesday are nothing new.

Citizens for Democracy, also launched this year, was formed in the wake of the Hermandad allegations, as was the Los Angeles-based Campaign for Dignity and Civic Participation. Conservative Latinos formed a group at the end of August, Hispanics for Fair Elections, to support the investigations.

Times staff writer Michael G. Wagner contributed to this story.

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