Opinion: More Prominence For Latinos At Connecticut Democratic Convention


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Pictured with Secretary Merrill (center) are from members of the board of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus. From left to right: Executive Director Joe Rodriguez, Secretary Maria Cruz, Vice Chair Yolanda Castillo, and Treasurer Frank Alvarado.
Karen Cortés

Connecticut Democrats gathered at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford Friday to nominate candidates for state office for the November 2014 election. As a delegate to the convention, I wasn’t expecting any surprises when I took my seat on the floor. With six incumbents slated for nomination, there wasn’t much mystery surrounding the outcome of the evening, but something did happen that made me take note: Four Connecticut Latinos were prominent speakers.
Not surprising, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra played a key role in the convention, giving  the opening welcoming speech.
Twenty-one year old Alejandro Ortega  took the stage to second the nomination of Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, praising her for her commitment to Access Health Connecticut.
When Joe Rodriguez, executive director of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus rallied the crowd with his seconding speech for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, I started to wish I was in the press box instead of on the convention floor. I like Denise. In her first term, she expanded voter rights by launching both online and Election Day voter registration.
Finally, Diana Jepsen seconded the nomination of her husband, Attorney General George Jepsen. During her remarks, Diana Jepsen said that her Cuban father would say, “Tell me who you hang around with and I’ll tell your who you are.” (She said it first in Spanish, but I’m a little rusty.)
I’m not sure why I was surprised. The crowd, and the speakers, represented what Connecticut is today: A diverse group working together for job creation, access to health care, a strong economy, gender equality, and protection of voter rights. I was proud to be “hanging around” with my fellow Democrats on Friday.
In January 2013, Secretary Merrill’s office reported that more than 22,000  new Hispanic voters registered to vote in 2012 alone. There are more than 157,000 registered voters of Hispanic origin in Connecticut – representing nearly 8% of all registered voters in the state. To estimate and report the figures, Secretary Merrill relied on registration data from the Connecticut Centralized Voter Registration System combined with Spanish surname information from the U.S. Census bureau.
 Latinos or Hispanics comprise 14.2% of Connecticut ‘s population