Politi­cos, par­ties still not reach­ing out to Lati­nos

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Bill Lam­brecht

Weekly polling of Lati­nos across the coun­try points to a deep­en­ing dis­trust of Repub­li­cans ever since Brett Ka­vanaugh was nom­i­nated to the U.S. Supreme Court, but poll­sters say those sen­ti­ments won’t au­to­mat­i­cally ben­e­fit Democrats who don’t ag­gres­sively court vot­ers.

Latino vot­ers in Texas and else­where leaned to­ward Democrats over Repub­li­cans by a 71-20 per­cent mar­gin, a Demo­cratic ad­van­tage that has in­creased by nine points over a six-week pe­riod, the lat­est track­ing poll by Latino De­ci­sions shows.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s neg­a­tive rat­ing in­creased by 3 points over the pe­riod, to 72 per­cent.

But the track­ing polls show nei­ther party is work­ing suf­fi­ciently to cul­ti­vate Latino vot­ers, who could have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on many lo­cal and statewide races.

In Texas, 62 per­cent of Lati­nos re­ported they’ve yet to hear from a cam­paign, po­lit­i­cal party or in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion, a lack of at­ten­tion that re­mained es­sen­tially un­changed dur­ing the polling.

The polling is spon­sored by the non­par­ti­san Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected and Ap­pointed Of­fi­cials, or NALEO, and has a po­ten­tial er­ror mar­gin of 3.1 per­cent.

Lati­nos ap­peared to have been af­fected by the high-deci­bel con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion amid al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety decades ago.

Ka­vanaugh’s un­fa­vor­able rat­ing grew to 50 per­cent, com­pared to a 22 per­cent fa­vor­able rat­ing, in re­cent weeks.

In Texas, 58 per­cent of Lati­nos viewed Ka­vanaugh un­fa­vor­ably, a higher rate than in any other state.

Latino De­ci­sions co-founder Matt Bar­reto said he be­lieved neg­a­tive views about Ka­vanaugh were rooted in cul­ture and in what Lati­nos saw as the dis­re­gard of one of the ac­cusers, Deb­o­rah Ramirez, who has Puerto Ri­can an­ces­try.

“There’s a very high level of re­spect for women in Latino cul­ture, for mothers and grand­moth­ers and sis­ters. I think that as the al­le­ga­tions came out, views changed,” he said.

In Texas, where vot­ers con­tinue to fol­low the plight of hun­dreds of chil­dren sep­a­rated from their par-

ents at the bor­der, Lati­nos placed a higher pri­or­ity on pro­tect­ing im­mi­grant rights than did Lati­nos in other states.

Thirty per­cent in Texas listed im­mi­grant rights as the most im­por­tant is­sue fac­ing their com­mu­nity, more im­por­tant than im­prov­ing wages and cre­at­ing jobs.

Texas Lati­nos also had a more neg­a­tive view of Repub­li­cans in Congress — a 3-1 un­fa­vor­able rat­ing — than Lati­nos else­where.

Bar­reto at­trib­uted that sen­ti­ment to lib­eral views of the rel­a­tively young Texas Latino vot­ers and to the shift by the Texas GOP to­ward hard­line im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies rather than the more mod­er­ate ap­proaches taken by Ge­orge W. Bush and oth­ers in the Repub­li­can Party when Bush was gov­er­nor and pres­i­dent.

For in­stance, Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton is lead­ing an ef­fort in court to over­turn the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, which has ben­e­fited more than 100,000 young im­mi­grants in Texas.

Ar­turo Var­gas, CEO of NALEO, noted Lati­nos’ in­ter­est in this elec­tion, with 70 per­cent telling poll­sters it’s “al­most cer­tain” they will vote Nov. 6.

“What re­ally jumps out at me is all those Lati­nos who are reg­is­tered to vote. There is real en­thu­si­asm in 2018,” he said.

But Var­gas said he re­mains un­set­tled by the fact so few Lati­nos are be­ing con­tacted by po­lit­i­cal par­ties or any­body else, not­ing that well over half in­ter­viewed have not re­ceived so much as a brochure or email about the elec­tion.

“The rea­son it’s trou­bling is that our re­search shows that Lati­nos who don’t reg­u­larly vote of­ten say that no­body en­gaged them, that no­body asked them for the vote. So they are left with the im­pres­sion that their vote doesn’t mat­ter,” he said.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric about the im­por­tance of the Latino vote and how par­ties are go­ing to en­gage Lati­nos and fight for their vote. But they don’t.”

That sen­ti­ment was shared by Voto Latino, a Wash­ing­ton-based ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion that an­nounced last week that it had reg­is­tered 40,000 Texas Lati­nos in the run-up to the elec­tion.

Voto Latino pres­i­dent Maria Teresa Ku­mar said she’s see­ing a re- run of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, when fewer than half of Lati­nos said they had been con­tacted be­fore the elec­tion.

“We’re see­ing that there is a lack of con­nect­ing the dots, of con­nec­tive tis­sue, that is no dif­fer­ent, sadly, from the last cy­cle,” she said. “We have yet to learn our les­son.”

Ly­dia Ca­mar­illo, vice pres­i­dent of San An­to­nio-based South­west Voter Reg­is­tra­tion Ed­u­ca­tion Project, said lack of fi­nan­cial sup­port is pre­vent­ing her or­ga­ni­za­tion from open­ing a Texas voter mo­bi­liza­tion drive with phone banks and can­vassers like a new South­west ef­fort in Cal­i­for­nia.

She es­ti­mated it will cost as much as $1 mil­lion to en­sure at least 100,000 newly reg­is­tered Latino vot­ers go to the polls — money that South­west is at­tempt­ing to raise.

“What is clear is that most cam­paigns are do­ing what they are good at — fo­cus­ing on the white swing vote, in­de­pen­dents and the black vote,” she said.

Montser­rat Garibay, sec­re­tary­trea­surer of the Texas AFL-CIO, said la­bor is the midst of an ag­gres­sive out­reach pro­gram for the midterms to pick up the slack in mo­bi­liz­ing Latino work­ers.

Since spring, the AFL-CIO and af­fil­i­ated unions have knocked on 127,000 doors in Hous­ton, Dal­las and Fort Worth, she said, an ef­fort ex­panded last week to San An­to­nio and Austin as well as to selected cam­paigns around the state.

“There has not been the in­fra­struc­ture to get new vot­ers,” she said. “We’re not wait­ing for the Demo­cratic Party or other or­ga­ni­za­tions to come knock on our doors.”

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