There were no major surprises when Angel Taveras delivered the keynote address last week at the “Latino Mayors: Politics and Policy in the City” conference at Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy. Yes, the Providence mayor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate did speak about a dearth of Latino mayors nationwide — around 240, in 15 states — when compared to corresponding demographics. And, yes, he did throw in a crowd-pleasing line about not being partial to a particular sub-group: “I dance meringue and I try to dance salsa, too.” But there was also plenty of standard Taveras campaign fare, like references to his “Head Start to Harvard” life story and a breakdown of the measures his administration took in 2011 — pay cuts, layoffs, pension reform, school closings, new deals with hospitals and universities — to grapple with the “category 5 fiscal hurricane” they inherited at city hall. “I always like to say that I am a Latino, but that’s not all that I am. There is a lot more to me,” he said at one point.
“The mayor [Taveras] talked [earlier] about his election in 2010. That was very important; it was transformational for Rhode Island and for Providence. But there was something else that happened in 2010 which, with respect to the empowerment of Latinos, was actually more significant. Ralph Mollis, who is the Secretary of State, won his election by 1.2 percent of the vote. In a year when he had almost universal support of Latino voters, who made up 7 percent of the electorate, on the south side of Providence. . . Ralph Mollis got 86 percent of the vote, which means almost every single African American and Latino voter in the largest African American and Latino community in the state voted for him. That’s why he’s the secretary of state today. That kind of swing role in Rhode Island politics is the future for Latinos.
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