Latinos Determined To Gain Political Clout in Rhode Island


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Gubernatorial candidate and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras spoke on three different Latino radio stations last week. Earlier this month, he went to a Bolivian art festival reception, gave the keynote address at a Latino politics conference and attended two other Latino functions.
Providence mayoral candidates Michael Solomon, Jorge Elorza and other 2014 local and statewide candidates chatted it up at the cocktail hour of the NAACP Providence’s 100th Anniversary Freedom Fund Dinner on Nov. 1, but couldn’t stay to hear the legendary keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia. They left to attend the 36th annual Progreso Latino gala.
And nearly every 15-minute slot at Latino Public Radio’s late-summer political barbecue was filled by candidates running for Rhode Island offices, further proof that Latino voters are already being courted.
“We are a force,” says Doris De Los Santos, past president of Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee and the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund. “We are no longer a subset in some communities. We are the substance.… We will be giving them the edge they need to win.”
By 2043, minorities are projected to be the majority in the United States.
They are the fastest-growing group in Rhode Island in recent decades — growing 43.9 percent between 2000 and 2010, and 50 percent the decade before. Latino leaders say their growth in the last decade — the non-Hispanic white population declined — led to Rhode Island keeping its two congressional seats.
U.S. Census data from the 2012 American Community Survey says there are 138,550 Latinos in Rhode Island — and they represent 13.2 percent of the state’s total population. In 1990, they made up 4.5 percent of the state’s population.
They now are the majority in Central Falls, and nearly 40 percent of Providence’s residents.
Providence College political science professor Tony Affigne, who is also a visiting Brown University professor, says Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis won by 1.2 percent of the vote in 2010 because he received overwhelming support from Latino and other minorities on Providence’s South Side.
He, De Los Santos, and Latino Public Radio board president and talk-show host Pablo Rodriguez say the Latino electorate provided “decisive support” that put Governor Chafee, Taveras and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in office as well.
They say the political influence of Latinos was not an anomaly in 2010.
The 58,788 voting-age Latino citizens, they say, will affect the following 2014 races: the Democratic primary for governor, congressional seats, Providence mayor and most other local races in the capital city, Pawtucket and Central Falls.
“To get the Latino vote in any race you have to
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