Latino Candidates: Lots At Stake In Getting Out The Vote


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Chris Rosario, who is the democratic candidate for the 128 District in Bridgeport, tries to convince voters, to not only support him, but also Governor Malloy. Bridgeport voters were critical in electing Malloy in the 2010 election.
Bill Sarno

One candidate has used his family’s connection to bring a former governor of Puerto Rico to stump for him,  others spend countless rainy days knocking on doors, while a few candidates in relatively safe districts make stumping for Malloy one of their priorities.  What they all have in common however, regardless of party affiliation, is that they are acutely aware that if the Latino vote does have an impact on  this election, it may  finally determine, the increased political clout the state’s half million Hispanic residents have been awaiting.
As a result, in central Meriden when state Rep. Hilda Santiago (D-84) knocks on doors in her largely Hispanic district, she always brings two things with her:  literature from her Democratic running mates and the message that it is important for people to vote on November 4.
Although she is running virtually unopposed, Santiago, who was born in Puerto Rico, recognizes that the votes of Democratic-leaning Hispanics in Meriden and in other cities could determine who will be governor the next four years.
Rep. Hilda Santiago, with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in Meriden to encourage voters to turn out and vote for Democrats.
“Governor (Dannel) Malloy needs a big turnout,” Santiago said.
Another unopposed candidate, State Sen. Andres Ayala (D-23), is doing the same in  Bridgeport.  “We are doing everything possible to get people to exercise their right to vote,” he said.
Among the tactics the Hispanic legislative candidates, Democrats and Republicans, rely on heavily are going door to door, sending out mailers and having volunteers help get voters to the polls on Election Day.
In addition, both parties hope  to charge up their campaigns by bringing well-known political figures,  such as former President Clinton, to the state.  Republicans are looking to attract Hispanic voters  by bringing a former governor of Puerto Rico to the state November 1.
Meanwhile, Democrats have hit a bit of a speed bump with the last minute postponement of a campaign visit by President Obama,
The news that President Obama planned to attend a rally in Bridgeport on Wednesday had energized the electorate, said Christopher Rosario, who is seeking to represent the 128th District for the first time.  “A lot of people have been calling and even those that couldn’t attend the rally want to help,” said Rosario, who is also the  city’s director of revitalization.
Connecticut Democrats must now hope the enthusiasm will not fade or that another presidential campaign trip can be arranged before November 4.
The Republicans have fielded several legislative candidates with Hispanic roots in several districts and hope for better success than they did two years ago when Cuban-American Art Linares (R-33) was their only victor, winning in a largely non-Hispanic Senate district.
One of their new candidates is Ruben Rodriguez of Waterbury who opposes incumbent Larry Butler (D-72) in a district which Latinos comprise more than half the registered voters
Former Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño will be in Connecticut on Nov. 1st to support Republican candidates.
Rodriquez, and others on the ticket, are hoping to generate interest among Hispanics, especially in the Puerto Rican communities on the Saturday before Election Day,  by bringing  Luis G. Fortuno, who served as the commonwealth’s governor from 2009 to 2013, to campaign in Connecticut.
Fortuno also has served as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, the territory’s  representative to Congress. He ran for governor as a leader of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico. He also is prominent in the Republican Party and has been mentioned as a candidate for national office.
Rodriguez said he was able to get Fortuno, who now lives and works in Washington, D.C.,  to interrupt his schedule on the day after his 54th birthday because he had campaigned for him in Puerto Rico and his father had been politically active on the island.
Fortuno is scheduled to be interviewed on WPRX 1120, a Spanish language radio station in New Britain. He also plans to meet with the mayor of that city, Erin Stewart, Meriden Mayor Manuel Santos, gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley and other Republican candidates including Pablo Soto of Meriden, a Republican who is running in the 83rd House District
Fortuno is scheduled to be in Waterbury from 1 to 2 p.m. with Rodriguez, according to the candidate’s recent press release.
The Foley campaign is looking to get some traction in Waterbury. Four years ago, the  Greenwich multi-millionaire lost by 1,400 votes in the Brass City, a relatively small margin compared to his 18,000 vote deficit in New Haven  and a 13,000 vote drubbing in Hartford
In 2010, a 14,000 vote plurality from Bridgeport, where the results came in late due to ballot problems, turned Foley from an apparent loser to a 6,000-vote loser.
Most Latino legislature candidates are employing traditional methods, such as walking their districts and distributing literature to spread the need-to-vote message. Matt Coyle, Rosario’s campaign manager, noted “We are contacting voters every day.”
Rosario, Hilda Santiago and Linares are proponents of knocking on doors. Rosario said he has walked across his district at least a dozen times.
One way Santiago hopes to spur voter participation is by sending out reminders to people whose homes she has visited.
Santiago said Democrats in Meriden are conducting a coordinated campaign to bring attention to everyone on the ticket. In visiting residents, she often is accompanied by state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, who is in a tough rerun against Len Suzio, the incumbent she barely ousted two years ago. She also has campaigned in Meriden with congressional candidate Elizabeth Esty (D-5).
Santiago said that while voter interest lags in years with no presidential race on the ballot, she is still hoping for a good turnout.
Across town, Soto said his campaign is distributing literature that includes a telephone number to call if voters need rides to the polls.  His team also will be “making calls prior to and on the day of election to make sure they (voters) have ways of getting to the polls.”
Like Santiago in Meriden, Bridgeport’s Rosario sees getting the vote out as important for Malloy. “The governor needs our help,”  he said.
Among other things, Rosario said Malloy’s re-election, along with that of Ayala and state Rep. Ezequiel Santiago (D-130), is essential to following through on initiatives to help Bridgeport, notably constructing a new train station  which would be “a boon to the local economy.”
Linares, who is running in a district that includes the lower Connecticut River valley and some shore towns, has a different take of the turnout situation. He says the hotly contested governor race is sparking voter interest.
Ayala said he has canvassers out every day in his district which includes 80 percent of Bridgeport and a small piece of Stratford. He also has volunteers contacting voters by phone.
Ayala, who is the first Hispanic Democrat ever elected to the state Senate, said he is stressing to his Bridgeport supporters that “they absolutely need to vote because the stakes are so high.”
Ayala said that getting Malloy re-elected is important if there is going to be “four more years of progress” in education, housing and other concerns of the Latino community. “He gets it,” Ayala said of the governor.