Texas primary, Scott Walker Raise Doubts About Latino Vote

By Grace Flores-Hughes, Voxxi

Is the Latino political machine real or imaginary?

Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin over a labor-led recall effort has many political writers and pundits analyzing and reanalyzing what this means for the upcoming presidential election. Mitt Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, is licking its proverbial chops imagining that if this predominantly Democratic state voted to retain a Republican, other blue states might follow. Significant labor union efforts and, as a result, Latino presence in the Wisconsin election were not able to pull off a decisive defeat for Walker.

But Wisconsin is not Nevada. Nor is it New Mexico nor Florida. These are all crucial battleground states where larger Latino voter numbers exist and we Hispanics are currently being courted by both parties — harder than Romeo chased after Juliet.

Lately, however, Hispanics haven’t been exactly influencing elections. It troubled many of us to see how in Texas, where redistricting promised to bring more Latino candidates in areas with heavy Hispanic population, the opposite happened. An article in the Washington Post predicted after last week’s Texas primary elections that, while Hispanics account for 65 percent of the population, the Lone Star state probably won’t add one lone Latino lawmaker to itscongressional delegation. Hispanic candidates ran. But non-Hispanics ended up elected. It begs the question: Why would a state with a dominant Hispanic population end up with zero candidates? Do we not vote for our own kind? And is that wrong?

It was an “Ay, Dios mio!”  moment when I read that Nina Perales, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said that “the purpose of increasing Hispanic political opportunities is not about sending more Hispanics to Congress.”  I am still scratching my head over her statement.

Current polls tell us that Obama leads Romney by a wide margin with Hispanic voters. Is this margin likely to remain or is there something the Romney campaign can do to get Latino voters interested enough to vote for him?  That depends on the Romney message.

The Wisconsin vote told us that voters there are more interested in balancing a budget and keeping taxes low than most other issues. This is one message that resonates with everyone, especially Hispanics, since our unemployment rate is at 11 percent.Hispanics are not all about immigration. We want to work, need to work and we can work. And the candidate that best identifies ways to do help us do that will, in all likelihood, get our vote.

But if Romney is going to try and sell us his “economic message,” his campaign had better think long and hard about how the message comes across. For example, when the former Massachusetts governor was in Fort Worth earlier this week to speak at the Hispanic-owned Southwest Office Systems, the audience was mostly made up of non-Hispanics. I am not advocating separate audiences for separate campaign events. My point is that if the Romney campaign wants to woo Hispanics, wouldn’t it seem natural to have a few brown faces here and there in the crowd? Or even in his campaign, which at this point is almost 100 percent staffed by non Hispanics — never mind other minorities.

The campaign is either going have to get Hispanic-friendly, and pronto, or its going to miss its opportunity to not only get our community interested in his campaign, but to get our covetedLatino vote.

Right now, though, they may not care to take any of these suggestions seriously — since we can’t even get our own elected.

This article first appeared in Voxxi.

Grace Flores-Hughes spent over three decades in public service. President George W. Bush appointed her in 2009 to be a member of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FISP) of the Federal Labor Relations. In 2011 she wrote a memoir “A Tale of Survival.”

[Photo by DonkeyHotey]

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