The CT Latino Vote: Malloy Doing The Courting?


By Wayne Jebian

Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s soft-pedaled re-election campaign will take a turn toward hard politicking on Friday when he visits a fund-raising reception on Main Street in Bridgeport for the Hispanic Democratic Caucus (CHDC). The week that started off with Three Kings Day will end with the visit to the king-makers, the Governor being the one bearing gifts. Or IOU’s rather, given that this election year is not a budget year, and it’s one particular budget item that is at the top of the Latino leadership’s wish list.
“I think the last time the governor showed up at one of the caucus events was before he was governor, when he was coming in during the primary,” said state senator Andres Ayala, Jr. (D-Bridgeport). In the 2010 election, a delayed vote count of Bridgeport precincts made for a nail-biting result, turning what looked like defeat for Malloy into victory against Republican candidate Tom Foley.
A Quinnipiac poll from mid 2013 put Foley in the lead in a Foley-Malloy electoral rematch. While Malloy, as the Democrat, is virtually assured of the support of the CT Hispanic Democratic Caucus, the difference between nominal support and enthusiastic support could also be the difference between winning and losing, according to Latino politicos. “A lot of political pundits are playing this up as a very tough election for the Governor,” said Joe Rodriguez, chairman of the CHDC. “Soon he’ll be knocking on our door looking for endorsements.”
What some Latino leaders are looking for in return would come during the 2015 budget process, in the legislative session following the coming election. A particular line item in the state budget, Hispanic Human Development, was slated for termination in both the governor’s 2011 and 2013 budgets. This represented state funds, less than $1Million per fiscal year, being channeled to nonprofit agencies delivering critical services to poorer residents. “These agencies are in the trenches providing critical services to the most vulnerable population,” said Rodriguez.
“For many years, we’ve been fighting to keep funding levels where they are, or to increase them,” said Jorge Cabrera, a community organizer in Bridgeport. “Latinos were hit disproportionately hard in the 2008 downturn and the services provided by these nonprofits were in even greater demand. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population has been growing.”
Werner Oyanadel, now Executive Director of the state’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, helped organize the nonprofit recipients in the battle of the 2013 cuts. According to Oyanadel, there were proposals to decrease the funding by 40% while eliminating the budgetary line item. “As a coalition, we made the point to the governor to keep the line item,” said Oyanadel, arguing that without this point of cohesion for Hispanic groups, it would be impossible to unite and fight effectively for their share in the future.
The list of groups that receive money through this budgetary item include Alpha Community Services; Bristol Community Health Center; CAUSA, a network of antipoverty groups; the Center for Latino Progress; and several others, according to Oyanadel.
In the end, Governor Malloy came through, sort of. “After we had worked to convince the Appropriations Committee of the vital need to keep this budget item, we met with the governor, who agreed not to oppose that final decision of the Appropriations Committee,” said Oyanadel.
Since all that Latino voters could expect to receive in the coming election campaign would be promises for better treatment in the next budget year, how else can Latino Democrats weigh the Governor’s performance as a friend to Latinos? “We want to ensure that the administration is diverse, that Hispanics are given key appointments,” said Rodriguez. “That is very important to our community. ”
Regardless of what marks he has earned to date, Friday’s party for the Party is one that Governor Malloy seemingly can’t afford to miss. “We are extremely happy that he will be joining us, but I also think there is a good reason for him to be there, if you look at the numbers,” said Senator Ayala. “The Latino community continues to grow, continues to increase its importance in the democratic process.” Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, are also expected to be in attendance.