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Associated Press
FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2011 file photo Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks during a memorial service in Reno, Nev. Sandoval, along with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, will head up a new Republican effort to recruit Hispanic and female candidates for state offices across the country. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford,File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Republican leaders are launching an effort led by Hispanic governors in New Mexico and Nevada in an attempt to make up ground with Latino voters who have largely turned away from the GOP.

The nation's only Hispanic governors plan to recruit minority candidates and groom them for state-level offices with an eye toward creating a pool of candidates for higher positions in the future, the Republican State Leadership Committee said in a statement.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, both moderate Republicans seen as rising stars in the party, will focus on attracting candidates and raising money for upcoming elections, the group said.

Supporters see the move as an opportunity to expand the party's influence.

"This is a good thing and great way to reshape the Republican Party," said Bob Quasius, founder of the Minnesota-based Cafe Con Leche Republicans, a group that seeks to make the GOP more welcoming to immigrants.

He added that after the November elections, several Republicans "realized that they need to do a better job at reaching out to Latino voters."

Detractors, however, predict it will be mere window-dressing designed to hide a larger problem.

"Simply changing the color of the icing won't do it," said Sandra Tenorio, chair of the Tejano Democrats, a Hispanic political group in Texas.

Tenorio said "it's at best naive and at worst insulting to think that Hispanics will vote for someone because of their last names."

Javier Gonzalez, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said the Republican Party needed to change its positions on education, health care and fighting poverty to truly make progress with Hispanic voters.

Martinez and Sandoval worked on minority outreach last year before the presidential election. In the November elections, however, President Barack Obama took about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. About 9 in 10 black voters backed Obama. as did around 55 percent of women voters.