1st Latino Presidential Candidate: Ben Fernandez

Some believe that Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is the first Latino candidate for president, but that's not true.

The first was Benjamin Fernandez who competed for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. He received 1,000,000 votes but lost to Ronald Reagan. He spent the rest of that political cycle serving as a surrogate speaker for the Gipper. He died on April 25, 2000 at the age of 75.

Here's an excerpt from his biography from the Republican National Hispanic Assembly website:

He was born in a railroad boxcar, and then in one generation, was a self-made millionaire and became a viable candidate for President of the United States. It could only happen in America! He was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and he and seven brothers and sisters worked with their immigrant parents in the sugar beet and tomato fields of Michigan and Indiana.Working from sunup to sundown, the Fernandez family saved every penny so they would not have to go on welfare. It was a hard-working, respectable family, trying to stay together, trying to survive; trying to maintain its dignity and self-respect. They made it.
Fernandez was also the first chairman of the National Hispanic Republican Assembly. His last assignment was as Michigan Hispanic State Chairman for Senator John McCain, January 2000.


  1. Anonymous12/21/2008

    I had the distinct pleasure and honor to work with Benjamin Fernandez on both his bid for President and his consulting business. Unfortunately the country was just not ready for a Hispanic candidate for President. One of Ben's most popular quotes was the best way to fight communism is not with a bullet but with an idea called capitalism. He was a great statesman and one of the most natural public speakers I have ever witnessed. he also had a great sense of humor. The one thing that is missing in all I have read about Ben was his deep love for his wife Jacqueline. I never had the chance to say goodbye to Ben before his passing but he will always have a special place in my heart as a gentle and loving man who I called my friend. Ben I am sure that you are in a better place and I am certain planning your bid for whatever higher office is available. There has been nothing written on his wife Jacqueline (Jackie) and if anyone knows how to reach B en's family or his wife I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at jazzman04@comcast.net -David M.

  2. Anonymous1/03/2010

    My grandfather Manuel Gonzales was good friends with Ben. I was 10 yrs old in 1979 when Ben first came to visit my grandfather I met met him for the first time. He was a great man.