By: Juan A. Figueroa
In times of need you stick with your friends and Chris Donovan is a friend of the Latino community. Amigo en la adversidad, amigo de verdad. Time and time again Chris has stood and fought for issues that matter to Latinos—health care, immigrants’ rights and voting rights, to name a few.
I have known Chris Donovan for more than 30 years. In 1992, the year he first ran for the General Assembly, I endorsed Chris and campaigned for him; among my contributions to his campaign that year was a guayabera shirt that he wore while campaigning in Latino neighborhoods or attending Latino events. The guayabera was about identifying and respecting our culture. The more important connection to Chris was his stand on the issues.
Chris has not disappointed when it comes to the issues. He was an early supporter of universal health care. One of the very first bills he proposed as a freshman legislator was a universal healthcare proposal for Connecticut. More recently, he has championed health care reform as Speaker of the House and pushed for comprehensive and innovative solutions to the health care crisis. An Act Concerning Health Care Reform is the latest bill he got through during the 2011 legislative session. Let us remember that Latinos represent the largest percentage of the uninsured in Connecticut and the country typically between 30% and 40% of those who lack health insurance.
As Speaker he also led the fight for passage of Connecticut’s own Dream Act. He fought for passage of this legislation for several years while Gov. Rell was in office and finally got it through under the current administration. Passage of this legislation will help many Latino immigrants with the cost of higher education. At a time when too many in our state and our country believe in the anti-immigrant (anti-Latino, really) rhetoric advanced by the extreme right, Chris used his power to benefit Latino immigrants.
Key to voting rights for Latinos is the political party structure and the people who occupy these positions. Chris has made it a point to get Latino representation in these bodies. Mildred Torres-Ferguson is today the only Latino/a to chair a political party town committee in the entire state. She is the Chair of the Democratic Town Committee for Meriden and Chris was her champion. Chris has also endorsed and is working to get Hilda Santiago elected as his successor to the General Assembly’s 84th district. Hilda sits on the Meriden City Council and is a well-known and respected Latina activist.
The distractions and unfortunate circumstances surrounding his campaign for congress should not obscure the fact that Chris will best represent Latino interests in Washington. None of the other candidates running for Connecticut’s 5th congressional district seat, Democrat or Republican, have put themselves on the line for Latino causes as Chris has done. And he has done so effectively winning on issues that matter to us. Amigo en la adversidad, amigo de verdad.
(Juan Figeuroa is a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state legislator living in Meriden. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of CTLatinoNews.com.)