Both Latino Republican and Democratic leaders came away from Tuesday’s municipal elections able to claim some positive results, including breakthroughs in several towns. However, there also was recognition that there remains a long way to go before Latinos hold office in numbers anywhere in proportion to their population.
“There is much work to be done,” said Joseph Rodriguez, chairman of the Connecticut Hispanic
Democratic Caucus, with Latinos generally under-represented in communities where they have a larger presence. He added that “Latinas are even more outnumbered.”
The 34 seats won by Latinos were among the nearly 300 governing body and school board positions available in these 18 towns, primarily the cities with the largest Latino populations.
Moreover, the Hispanic caucus also wants to dispel the stereotype that Latino candidates only win
in Latino districts.
Another statewide leader, Reuben Rodriguez, the chairman of the Latino National Republican
Coalition of Connecticut, said, “We are analyzing the recent election to form our long-term
strategic outreach plan.”
Out of a total of 60 Latinos who ran for mayor, first selectman, council, alderman or
school board in 18 towns, 34 were elected, with 27 being Democrats. None of the four candidates for mayor or first selectman were successful.
Latinos also secured a variety of other posts, including Evelyn Solla deCambre, who kept her seat on the Board of Assessment Appeals in Windham, and Lydia Martinez, who moved from the council to win the city clerk job in Bridgeport.
Latinos still have an opportunity to secure a seat on the New London Board of Education, where
after a recount Friday, indicated that Aracelis Vazquez-Haye and Robert Funk were tied, local officials began scouring state statutes and the city charter to determine what is the next step.
Statewide, Joseph Rodriguez said Hispanic Democrats “fared rather well, especially in the urban hubs,” pointing to Latino gains in Meriden and Eloisa Melendez winning her second term on the Norwalk council.
Republicans had a tough time in most large cities, with New Britain and Danbury being notable exceptions.
Reuben Rodriguez, who also was an unsuccessful candidate for alderman in Waterbury, said, “We
knew that it would be challenging for Republicans in a city with a Democratic incumbent and high
Still, the Republican leader saw some positives from Tuesday’s voting. “We are encouraged because our Latino candidate, Jose Morales, came within recount striking distance of the alderman seat and I had a strong showing in my district, as did Republican Latinos in other towns.”
Hispanic Republicans did rack up some breakthroughs in school board contests, including Steve Ortiz gaining a seat in Willington where the Latino population is about 2 percent and Janet Oliveras Vasel in Wethersfiled where Latinos comprise about 8 percent of the population.
Republicans also made gains in New Britain, with a 40 percent Latino population, and now hold a 12-3 edge on the council as well as the mayor’s seat. The Hispanic winners included Republicans incumbent Willie Pabon, who had been minority leader, and newcomer Kristian Rosado, who ousted longtime incumbent Adam Platosz.
In Danbury, a quarter of the population is Latino and recent elections have been largely won by
Republicans. However, Guatemala-native Elmer Palma was the only Latino elected to the council.
Running in a district that is mostly non-Hispanic, the Republican credited his victory with trust
built up among the voters.
Joseph Rodriguez cited Meriden, where Latinos comprise about a third of the population, as among
the areas where Hispanic Democrats made progress. With the election of Michael Cardona, there will be two Hispanics on the 12-person council. A former school board member, Cardona joins fellow
Democrat Miguel Castro, who was elected in 2013.
As they prepare for 2016 when the ballot will include state legislature seats, both parties have getting out the vote, outreach and developing candidates on their agendas.
“Turnout is not where we want it to be,” Joseph Rodriguez said, citing New Haven where the overall
participation Tuesday was about 20 percent. “We also still have more work in voter education and
in mobilizing, getting more people involved,” the Democratic leader said. He said the mobilization
has to take place year-round and more work is needed to register and talk to voters.
In terms of caucus activity, the chairman said he will looking at the New London area where there
is a growing Latino population and there has been success in recent elections.
Reuben Rodriguez said the Republican coalition “will be having ongoing discussions about outreach
initiatives with the chairman of the CT Republican Party, J.R. Romano, and with House Republican
Leader Themis Klarides and the House Republican leadership.”
The coalition chairman added, “We consider 2016 another opportunity – turnout is considerably
higher for a Presidential election – and we have started the process of identifying viable candidates.”
Looking to the party’s success in New Britain, Reuben Rodriguez said, “I’m working really close with Mayor Erin Stewart, plus I have a member of the Latino National Republican Coalition of
Connecticut close to her … Carmelo Rodriguez president of the New Britain Hispanic Coalition.”