Opinion: We Need You, We Don't Need You


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Diane Alverio

We need you, but we don’t need you: That’s the message Connecticut’s Latino voters are getting this year.
Pundits and news reports have been telling us since early in the election season that the state’s Latino swing vote is key in several races. But, if candidates are wooing Latinos, the message has been confusing at best. The race giving the state’s Latinos the most whiplash is the close gubernatorial contest between incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley in which a slim margin will most likely decide the outcome.
A few of the congressional campaigns are equally guilty, but the race for governor is leaving Latinos around the state and even many Latino political leaders, from both parties, shaking their heads in amazement that neither candidate pulled out all stops to win over this electorate.
First, just to set the record straight, Latinos are not asking for special treatment. It’s about inclusiveness. It’s about not being an afterthought or having your vote taken for granted or dismissed; but rather to be an equal partner in the political process. Nor is it anything new in politics, it dates back to times when Italian, Polish or Irish voters expected the same treatment.
There is no mystery, to winning over Latino voters — just common sense, knowing your audience and, as I seriously suggested to a political consultant last year, much needed diversity training for campaign staffs. This year, it appears as though Malloy and Foley and their staffers may have lost their way when it comes to reaching Latinos.
Malloy, for instance, recently appeared in what seems a flurry of photo opportunities in Bridgeport. We all know he was narrowly elected last time due to voters in Bridgeport, the city with the state’s highest concentration of Latino voters. But Latino voters in Bridgeport and elsewhere question his record of having appointed a relatively low number of Latino officials to his administration. As an incumbent, he had the perfect opportunity to score major points with this key voter group that could give him a second term in office, but he and his folks fumbled. Or worse, as being said in some Latino circles around the state, he didn’t think he had to.
As for Foley, his press events on how he will help the cities or how he has offered to work on reducing car insurance rates in the cities where many Latinos reside, sound terribly hollow. It looks like he too, may have forgotten about focusing on the basics of politics. One prominent Latino Republican in New Britain, Carmelo Rodriquez, spoke out publicly this past week, saying, “I do not believe Gov. Malloy or Foley have done enough to reach the Latino community through commercial media or newspapers. As chairman of the Latino Coalition I can personally say that I have not been contacted by either of them for any input on the Latino community in New Britain.” An honest oversight or a dismissive attitude? It’s particularly astounding in a city where Latinos helped elect a Republican mayor. Was it a calculated risk by Foley’s campaign staff to not spend time creating alliances with Latino Republicans who just might be in a position to give him the slim margin he needs? We’ll soon learn if it was a critical mistake.
There are of course, those Latinos those who understandably must dutifully publicly support their party’s candidate, and although they may be highly critical, are keeping their condemnation behind the scenes. We can only hope they are savvy enough to leverage all those photo ops they’ve participated in after Election Day.
One thing is certain, regardless of who will lead the state over the next four years, the number of Latino voters in Connecticut will only keep growing and more will turn out at the polls. The Latino vote without a doubt will be needed for future candidates to succeed. We can only hope in looking ahead, that this election will serve as a turning point that will lead to a much needed updating of the ‘wooing the state’s Latino voters’ section in political campaign handbooks.
Diane Alverio is publisher and a founding member of CTLatinoNews.com, a former President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a veteran journalist of more than 30 years in print, radio and television.