While Latino Democrat leaders are likely to back Governor Dannel P. Malloy for re-election, many say more Latinos in leadership roles in the state are needed in the coming term. That was the near-consensus at a gathering of the Hispanic Democratic Caucus in Bridgeport recently.
“There are no commissionerships,” pointed out State Senator Andres Ayala (D-Bridgeport). “Deputy commissioners, yes, but I think that there’s plenty of talent inside and outside the state that would warrant having Latino commissioners as part of his cabinet.”
CTLatinoNews.com requested a list of Malloy political appointees, as well as top level Latino managers with the state from the Governors office. We received a list of 106, two deputy commissioners and 104 Latinos serving in management positions across state agencies, as of January 6th of this year. It is not clear however, if they are civil employees or political appointees and how many were in those job positions before Malloy took office.
The two Latino Deputy Commissioners are Victor M. Diaz at the Department of Motor vehicles and Fernando Muniz at the Department of Children and Families. Gerry Garcia, Chief of Operations for the CT Department of Consumer Protection is also a Malloy appointee.
Samaia Hernandez, Malloy’s press secretary, issued the following statement upon our inquiry. “Increasing diversity in senior management positions has been a central goal of the Administration, and to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong. As cabinet-level positions become open, qualified candidates are always encouraged to apply and are given serious consideration.”
Governor Malloy did appoint Jeannette DeJesús, who served as special appointment to the Governor on Healthcare Reform in his first term, who left over a year ago. He also appointed Carmen Espinosa as the first-ever Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.
“Regarding Espinosa, I appreciate it, I do,” said State Representive Minnie Gonzalez (D-Hartford) by phone. “But there aren’t enough of us coming up behind her.” Although Malloy also appointed Jason Lobo to the superior court, Gonzalez said that an even deeper bench would be appreciated.
“I think that we have enough Latinos living in the state of Connecticut that we deserve to have a commissioner in one of the state agencies,” said representative Juan Candelaria, (D-New Haven).
“The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) has over 500 resumes in its databank of qualified Latinos in the state of Connecticut ready to be appointed to positions,” said Americo Santiago, a former state representative from Bridgeport, “so there’s no issue about having enough qualified people in the state.”
“Personally, my biggest disappointment with Malloy is that fact that leadership of his administration is not reflective of the capabilities and contributions of Latinos in this state,” said Americo’s son, current state representative Ezequiel Santiago (D-Bridgeport). “I am part of a local organization of Latino elected officials here in Bridgeport and I can assure you that we all feel the same way,” said the elder Santiago. The Santiagos’ words reflected a broad sentiment among Bridgeport residents in attendance Friday night that their community has had limited access to opportunities in Hartford.
Representative Victor Cuevas (D-Waterbury), a freshman in the State House of Representatives, himself embodies the evolving dynamic. “While in the overall landscape, there are not enough Latinos in leadership positions, we know that at the state level, things take time to come to fruition,” he said. “What you are starting to see now is in the urban centers, municipal leaders like Mayors are promoting Latinos into leadership positions. That’s the grassroots effort, the foundation if you will, leading into the state level. I think Governor Malloy gets it, and I’m almost positive that he’s seeking out folks after this next election. But it won’t happen overnight.”
Matthew Lesser, Assistant majority Leader in the State House of Representatives said, “I think the Governor has made serious efforts to reach out to Latinos and make the Administration reflective of our changing state. We can and should do better but Governor Malloy has been a breath of fresh air.”
By Wayne Jebian CTLatinoNews