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Federal File: Of Politics and the Secretary

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Lauro F. Cavazos, who has spent much of his five weeks as Secretary of Education traveling in the Southwest and Southern California, has been criticized both for doing too much campaigning for Vice President George Bush and for doing too little.

The Texan has made a number of appearances in his home region on behalf of Mr. Bush's Presidential bid, while spending more time at education-related appearances and meetings with Hispanic groups.

The same day he opened Bush/Quayle headquarters in Corpus Christi and San Antonio, he spoke at Texas A&I University, where he stressed the dropout problem and education reform; visited a high school; and attended a banquet given by the elementary school in his hometown of Kingsville and a reception sponsored by the National Council of La Raza.

But officials of the League of United Latin American Citizens recently mentioned Mr. Cavazos' role at a news conference in which they lambasted both campaigns. The lulac officials charged the candidates with playing "taco politics," wooing Hispanic voters while ignoring their concerns.

Ruben Bonilla, lulac's general counsel, said in an interview that Hispanic leaders are not surprised that Mr. Cavazos has spent so much time in the Southwest.

"We give the Republicans credit for that. We think they're smart," Mr. Bonilla said. "But we don't think Hispanics should be led astray and led to believe he was appointed for his expertise on education, when he was clearly appointed to seduce the Hispanic vote into the Republican column."

But The Washington Times reported last week that some Republicans are angry that Mr. Cavazos refused to sign a campaign letter to Hispanics and to make a video tape endorsing California's gop slate.

Mr. Cavazos' spokesman, Mahlon Anderson, called the report "unfair, incorrect, and malicious."

He said Mr. Cavazos had not been asked about the letter. Although the Secretary had refused to make a blanket endorsement, Mr. Anderson noted, he was planning to make a Spanish-language video promoting Mr. Bush.

Mr. Anderson said the Secretary is working hard for Mr. Bush, while also striving to maintain nonpartisan credibility with Hispanics and the education community.

"His attitude is, 'I'm only in here until Jan. 20, I have a message I want to get out and I have a commitment to help the ticket,"' Mr. Anderson said. "He's trying his best to do both in the time allotted.''--jm

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