CT Latinos: Political Research Firm Says Pivotal in Election


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Photo: Beinglatino.com
Bill Sarno

                   ” Ignored By Democrats, Under Attack By Republicans”

If Tuesday’s election results carry any message for Connecticut’s political leaders it was that if you talk and walk with the growing Latino community, good things can happen on Election Day. This may include winning. 
According to an analysis by Latino Decisions, an opinion political research firm, the Latino vote was pivotal in Connecticut.
Although it will take time to gather and study the pertinent data, it appears that Latinos residing in just three cities, New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford, may have given Gov. Dannel Malloy a margin that might have exceeded his overall victory edge, 24,000 votes, over Republican Tom Foley.
“Latino voters clearly came out overwhelmingly in favor of Dan Malloy,” said Evelyn Mantilla, a West Hartford Democrat.
The voting numbers in the big cities indicated that the Latinos went out to vote, said Carmelo Rodriquez, a Republican leader in New Britain.  “We showed we can put up the numbers,” he said. Unfortunately, the vote generally did not favor candidates from his party.
In the 5th Congressional District, the Latino vote in Meriden, New Britain, Waterbury and Danbury helped carry U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty to victory in the 5th Congressional District.
“The turnout in our cities was higher than expected, which is great,” said Laura Maloney, a spokesperson for the Esty campaign.
“We’ve made it a focus to reach out to our cities, including particularly the Latino community in Meriden, with community outreach and grassroots mobilization,” Maloney added.
This strategy, which included bringing in longtime California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez to address Meriden gatherings in Spanish, paid off with a victory margin of nearly 3,700 votes.
Same-day registration, set up just last year, was a major factor in getting  hundreds of Latinos to vote for the first time.
Many of the Hispanics were bused from their neighborhoods to register  on what became fondly known as boricuamobiles, said Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, Connecticut director of the Hispanic Federation. A boricua is a person born in Puerto Rico.
The Federation had provided four Hispanic nonprofit organizations with funds, $50,000 each, to build registration and turnout. Each of these agencies provided transportation to bring Latinos to the single registration center that is allowed in each city.
In Hartford, the Hispanic Health Center decorated its bus festively and there was a lot of fun, said Alvarez-DiMarzo.
Again, how well this fun enlisted new voters is awaiting study, she said.
Among those eager to pore over exit polls and other data is Werner Oyanadel, executive director of the state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. He said he was interested in seeing what is different about Connecticut compared to other states with Latino populations in who is supported at elections.
Oyanadel noted that Hispanics retained all the state House and Senate seats they held with state Rep. Christina Ayala being replaced by Christopher Rosario in the 128th District.
Another political observer who plans to get a close look at the numbers is Scott McLean, a political science professor at Quinnipiac University. He said the “urban vote won the election for Malloy,” especially in New Haven where the majority was greater than four years ago.
This heavy vote for the governor came in what McLean characterized as a “low turnout type of election.”
In 2010, Malloy’s margin in New Haven was 17,169 votes; this time it was 17,508 votes.
The real story in New Haven, McLean said, was the effort spent at ground level, “fairly quietly,” to get out the vote.
In addition to funneling money to the Junta for Progressive Action to get out the Latino vote in New Haven, the  nonpartisan Hispanic Federation made thousands of reminder calls to voters.
As of 2013, New Haven already had more than 11,000 active, registered Hispanic voters, according to state estimates based just on surnames.
For Rodriquez, who heads the New Britain Latino Coalition, Tuesday was a “happy, sad day,” Rodriquez said. He was glad to see a lot of Hispanics voting when he went to the polls in New Britain. He was also “excited for  Robert Sanchez” a New Britain Democrat who easily defeated Edward Colon for the 25th District House seat.
However, he would have liked to see Republicans do better, but acknowledged that his party has not done enough to reach and engage Latinos in Connecticut.
Ruben Rodriquez, a Republican who lost a close House race in Waterbury to incumbent Larry Butler (D-72), would have liked to see more Latinos vote in his district where they are a majority. “We are going to regroup” and focus on “teaching Latinos the importance of voting in all elections.”
As to what Republicans should seek in a candidate, McLean said it should be somebody who will treat Democratic Latino voters like other constituencies.
The same approach to all constituents’ strategy seemed to work in the 5th Congressional District.
“I think Rep. Esty’s message of economic opportunity and investment in education for all our children resonated well with folks across the district, including in our cities,” Maloney said.
As to why Hispanics supported the incumbent Democratic governor, Mantilla said, “Latinos were able to break through the noise and see that the accomplishments of Governor Malloy in increasing the minimum wage, improving conditions for workers and accepting the contributions of all immigrants are all matters that affect us positively. Latinos want to continue this direction”
For now, Democrats and Latinos generally are walking together. However, according to the Latino Decisions national poll reported Wednesday by the alternative journalism site Latino Rebels, this is changing. Many Latinos feel ignored by Democrats, a feeling shared in Connecticut according to Carmelo Rodriquez. At the same time, however, many Latinos feel under attack by the Republicans.