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Archive for September, 2008

Mark Udall (Pictured left) and Bob Schaffer (right) chose two very different approaches when it came to courting Latino voters in Colorado. It seems that Mark Udall’s approach may have the been the most successful…

The growing influence of Latino voters is visible not only in the Presidential election but in statewide elections as well. In the state of Colorado, Latinos will play a decisive role in electing the next president of the United States. It seems that they are also playing a key role in the highly contested senate race between Bob Schaffer (R-CO) and Mark Udall (D-CO). The latest Senate poll numbers released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University and The Wall Street Journal. The poll shows Democrat Mark Udall with an overall lead of 8 percentage points, but he trails Schaffer among white voters 45 percent to 44 percent. Among Latinos, Udall leads by a gaping 43 points, 64 percent to 21 percent.

That means Latinos and to a lesser extent African-Americans are almost entirely responsible for the Democrat’s edge in the race and that the failure by Schaffer and other Republicans to make inroads among those voters may be an Achilles’ heel for the party in 2008. In April of this year, Bob Schaffer was warned that it would be wise to court the Hispanic community early in order to ensure their support. A group of high-powered Republican Latinos sat down with GOP Senate candidate and pressed him to reach out to the state’s Latino voters. They advised him to hire Latino staffers, offered to introduce him to community leaders and reminded him of the importance of attending the community’s political events, such as the annual Bernie Valdez luncheon.

Schaffer “had a little bit of a problem” with it, said Gil Cisneros, who attended the meeting and is now helping John McCain coordinate a Latino outreach in Colorado. “He said, “Well, I’ve never campaigned like that. I consider myself to be an American first.” Cisneros also suggested Schaffer didn’t like to think about voters based on their racial or ethnic group. In hindsight, the meeting may have turned out to be a key moment in the campaign.

On the other hand Mark Udall understood the importance of the Latino vote early and made sure to increase his visibility in the Latino community. He also has a massive outreach operation that includes dedicated staff, Latino oriented events and a postcard campaign in which Latino supporters write to friends and neighbors to solicit their votes. At a recent campaign event at La Rumba, a downtown Denver salsa club, Udall who is also a five-term congressman wasn’t above dropping a few names. Besides Crisanta Duran, the campaign’s political director and Latino liaison, he also introduced his chief of staff, Alan Salazar, and his press secretary, Tara Trujillo who is perhaps the campaign’s most public face behind Udall.

“Mark is reaching out to Latino voters because he believes it is important that they have a seat at the table — something they haven’t always had under the Republican administration — when it comes to the issues that matter most to them,” said Trujillo, a native of Pueblo.

Nationally, Latino voters typically lean to Democratic candidates by a two to one margin. But in the last eight years, President Bush and some of the GOP’s top strategists have argued that the party’s long-term success depends on changing that. Latino voters appear to be trending even more Democratic in 2008 than they have in the past. In fact Barack Obama leads among Latino voters in Colorado by 68 percent to 26 percent, the Quinnipiac poll showed.

For the Republicans in Colorado, “what you’re dealing with in a close race is not to win the Hispanic vote but to keep from losing it by as large a margin as you might have,” said Norman Provizer, a political-science professor at Metro State College in Denver. “It’s really how well campaigns resonate with the voters, and part of this is how well they resonate with particular minority communities. You’re conveying a message that you’re more open to things, are more sympathetic,” Provizer added. Cisneros, the Latino Republican leader, agreed. “You’ve got to be out there at some of these functions. You’ve got to be out there with the community,” Cisneros said after his earlier meeting with Schaffer. “I don’t think that’s racist. I think that’s practical, everyday politics.”

Bob Schaffer did not heed the warnings of the Republican Latino key players in the state of Colorado, as a result he now faces an increasingly tough race for the Colorado Senate. It will be difficult to predict whether Bob Schaffer will be able to win enough Latino support in the next few weeks to gain an advantage over his Democratic opponent. Bob Schaffer faces an uphill battle during an election year that is already turning out to be difficult for Republicans.

Denver Post

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A great pioneer of Latino leadership and service, Dionicio  Morales made a great impact on the community which he served. His legacy teaches us that one individual can make a huge difference in the lives of many.

Dionicio Morales, an early giant of Eastside activism who came out of the agricultural fields of Moorpark to create the nation’s largest Latino human services provider, has died. He was 89. Morales died of natural causes September 24th at Beverly Hospital in Montebello, California said his daughter, Magdalena Morales.

In 1963, Morales created the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) to provide social services, such as job training and child care. Along the way, he also became a mentor to many future community leaders and an eloquent crusader for social justice. In the 1970s, at a time when Mexican American men overwhelmingly held the reins of neighborhood activism, Morales also opened doors for female leaders.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina recalled being a young activist at East Los Angeles College, demonstrating over issues such as the Vietnam War, when she first met Morales. “We were so anti-establishment. We didn’t trust people. But he was really a man all about empowering the community,” Molina said. “He really believed that every person should have a job, and that once you had a job, you could do anything.” Molina said that many years later, when she was an up-and-coming politician, Morales would turn to her for help with his projects. He was hard to turn down. “He would lay out what he wanted to do, and it was one of those things you couldn’t say no to. He would say, ‘I have all these trailers for child care, but I need county land, ” Molina recalled. “I’m there thinking, ‘I don’t know if I could do that, but geez, it would be a good thing.’ ”

Over the years, Morales was honored many times for his work as a leader who, along with others such as United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, U.S. Representative Edward Roybal and Los Angeles Times journalist Ruben Salazar,was an early player in Eastside affairs.

Morales was born Oct. 9, 1918, in Yuma, Ariz. He traced his social consciousness to the 1930s, when Mexican Americans were largely segregated. He grew up sleeping in a tent near Moorpark with other Mexican Americans who worked in apricot and walnut groves. He experienced firsthand the need for health care in his community after a tuberculosis outbreak killed several family members and friends who were too poor to go to a doctor. By 1959, Morales was a union organizer in the garment industry.

Although he was known as a fierce advocate for Mexican Americans, Morales could also be a critic, arguing at times that the community lagged behind other immigrant groups in building institutions to better themselves. He said he learned this the hard way when he first tried to create his social service foundation. “I learned from that experience that if I was going to succeed, I would not go to our people,” he told The Times with typical frankness in 2000. “I would go to corporate America or the government, regrettably.”

That’s just what he did. In 1963, he sat under an avocado tree towering over his Pico Rivera home and pondered ways to launch what would become the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation. He decided to call President Kennedy at the White House.”I said, ‘I want to talk to the president about economic development for Mexican Americans,’ ” Morales recalled. “They said, you’ve got the wrong number. You need to call the Mexican Embassy.”Morales called the embassy and was told that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was meeting with the ambassador to discuss the same issues. Morales became a local hero of sorts after he persuaded Johnson to come to Los Angeles and meet with members of the Mexican American community. Johnson eventually helped him secure funding for his foundation from the Department of Labor.

Today his foundation serves more than 100,000 people, most of them of low or moderate income earners, with a wide range of social services, including immigration assistance and English classes. Morales took pride in the fact that more than 8,000 of those clients are children. The group’s reach stretches through the state from Salinas to San Ysidro, covering seven counties.

Charlie Ericksen, publisher of the Hispanic Link news service in Washington, D.C., called Morales “the most consistent Mexican American civil rights leader that I’ve been associated with. He was always one who genuinely felt for the small people in the world.” Frank Quevedo, chairman emeritus of the board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Morales had a Don Quixote like idealism but also a practical how-to quality. “He could marry big ideas that were a long way off with how to get the job done today,” Quevedo said.

Morales stepped down as president of the foundation in 2000, but he never really retired and was always conjuring up new projects.Magdalena Morales said she would teasingly call her father Cartman, after the bossy, eternally plotting character on the animated television show “South Park.” “He was conniving for a good cause,” she said with a laugh. Even as he lay hospitalized the day before he died, she said, he was still making speeches. Magdalena Morales, who is working with others on a documentary about his life, said her father lamented that there was much left to do: “He would say, ‘I wish my body wasn’t giving out on me. I still want to do so much.’ “

In addition to his daughter Magdalena, Morales is survived by his wife, Maria, 81; daughter Margarita Padilla, 60; sons Tim, 55, and Dionicio Jr., 39; two granddaughters; and three great-grandsons.

Los Angeles Times

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Barack Obama’s “Latino Blueprint for Change” promises to “close the achievement gap by investing in proven interventions.” Among these interventions is the inclusion of more skilled Bilingual teachers.

Despite his own family history,or perhaps inspired by it, Barack Obama is pitching a middle ground when it comes to bilingual education. He rejects the English only thrust of nativist conservatives, while distancing himself from advocates of cultural preservation.

Mr. Obama favors “transitional bilingual education,” meaning that he believes teachers should transition children to English as quickly as possible, building-up from students’ knowledge of their native language. That is, youngsters should become literate in two languages, not one.

Research inside schools lends support to his approach, assuming that a new generation of teachers can be prepared to serve the nation’s growing number of Asian and Hispanic children who enter school not speaking English. The nation’s economic future depends especially on the human capital of young Hispanics. By 2025, one in four students nationwide will be of Hispanic heritage.

The Bush administration has made little progress in closing huge gaps in achievement levels of Hispanic versus (non-Hispanic) white children. This means a less productive labor force in coming decades, the very workers that must help cover our Social Security checks and health care costs.

According to a poll conducted by The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Ed in ’08, a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of education issues in the 2008, for Hispanic parents, the No. 1 issue in the presidential race is education. They will tilt swing states, like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Virginia, toward the Democratic or Republican column. One-third of Hispanics registered as independents, often small business owners who depend on young literate employees, favor John McCain.

My Education Watch correspondent, Lance Izumi, prefers English immersion. But millions of young children enter school without grasping much English, and No Child Left Behind now humiliates them by setting on their desk a standardized exam that can’t be deciphered. These naïve policies only stigmatize what young children know, undercut their confidence in the classroom, and disempower parents.

Transitional classrooms, as Mr. Obama puts forward, offer a pragmatic alternative. A generation of research details that it’s the richness of teacher’s verbalizations that sparks the child’s growth in oral language, and then reading proficiency. An overnight shift to English can shake the child’s underlying confidence to communicate and stifle literacy growth in either language.

Even a Bush administration review of controlled classroom experiments — seeking to identify what works in language teaching — found stronger achievement gains for students enrolled in quality bilingual programs, compared with English-immersion classrooms. Yet a skilled bilingual teacher is crucial, one who understands the knowledge and social norms that children acquire at home, and how to build from the first language to advance rich oral language and then written literacy. It’s a no-brainer for students attending schools in Europe and East Asia.

Mr. Obama’s “Latino Blueprint for Change” promises to “close the achievement gap by investing in proven interventions.” Indeed the evidence points to other beneficial programs for Hispanic children, like expanding quality preschools and recruiting a new generation of bilingual teachers.

Mr. Obama’s promised “army of new teachers” could spur demand for Hispanic college graduates — if more than half actually graduated from dreary urban high schools. Many teenagers must exit to backstop their family’s economic survival.

Meanwhile, Mr. McCain has little to say to Hispanic parents and all Americans who are eager to nurture a more productive workforce. He barely mentioned education reform in a recent speech before the League of United Latin American Citizens, saying only that “we need to shake-up failed school bureaucracies with competition.” The notion of individuals competing for scarce places in private schools remains foreign to most Hispanic communities, held together by pro-family values and economic cooperation.

Money matters will likely dominate the candidates’ remaining stump speeches during the final weeks of this marathon campaign. Barack Obama has much to gain by accenting his plan for lifting Hispanic achievement. Amplifying this message might spark robust voter turnout by a pivotal constituency. If elected, his press for a more integrated and literate workforce will benefit us all.

New York Times

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A coalition of Spanish language media and community organizations kicked off a massive voter registration drive Thursday, aiming to register nearly one million Hispanic voters.

Hispanics have long been seen as a potentially powerful voting force, but that promise has yet to fully materialize.

This campaign whose name in Spanish, “Ya es Hora, Ve y Vota!” translates as “It’s Time, Go Vote” intends to change that by providing eligible new citizens with the information and the incentive they need to take part in the American political process, organizers said.

“This effort will not only put voter registration forms in the hands on Latinos, but also may help shape the political landscape,” said Janet Murgia, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza.

Only 47 percent of Hispanic citizens of any race turned out to vote in the 2004 presidential election, compared with 67 percent for non-Hispanic white citizens and 60 percent for blacks, according to census figures.

The campaign’s print media partner, impreMedia, will insert 990,500 voter registration cards into its publications between Friday and Monday in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

Community organizers will follow up with information on how to register and why it’s important to vote. Their message will be reinforced by television and radio spots by media giant Univision Communication and Entravision Communications.

Hispanics traditionally have leaned Democratic, but organizers emphasized this effort was nonpartisan and intended only to increase civic participation and make the Hispanic voice heard on issues that matter most to them: the economy, education and immigration reform.

“This is neither a pro-Democratic or a pro-Republican effort,” said Mike Fernandez, Vice President of Public Affairs, State Farm Insurance Companies, which helped fund the campaign.” “It’s pro-voting, and pro-American.”

Associated Press

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Despite Obama’s best efforts, Hispanics in Florida continue to show strong support for John McCain.

As Democrat Barack Obama headlines a rally Wednesday during his second campaign swing through Florida in as many weeks, he faces a challenge in the diverse battleground state: winning over Hispanics.He’s 10 percentage points behind Republican John McCain among Hispanics in Florida, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll released Sunday that showed a tight race overall. McCain is favored by Hispanics 51 to 41 percent in the survey. However the poll’s margin of error for the Hispanic voter numbers is 10.6 percentage points. A Mason-Dixon poll released Tuesday showed McCain leading by 6 percentage points among Hispanics, those results are actually within the margin of error.

The gaps exist despite a statewide surge in Democratic registration among Hispanics and Obama’s promise to spend a record-setting $20 million on Hispanic outreach nationwide. Tuesday, the campaign released ads on Spanish-language television and radio in Florida that depict McCain as oblivious to the millions of Americans without health insurance or jobs.

John McCains continued lead in the polls signifies trouble not only for Obama but for Florida Democrats attempting to unseat Republicans in Congress. According to Roland Sanchez-Medina, Vice President of the Cuban-American Bar Association, Obama’s current drag among Hispanics could hurt the Democratic Party’s chances of unseating three South Florida Cuban-American Republicans in Congress:Lincoln Diaz-Balart(R-Fl), Mario Diaz-Balart(R-Fl) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen(R-FL).

Many point to Obama’s apparent willingness to meet with men such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez as partly to blame for the lack of support. John McCain recently launched a Spanish language ad that depicts Hugo Chávez ranting against ”filthy Yankees” and asks: “Did you see who Obama wants to talk with?”

Republican State Representative Juan Carlos Zapata, who is Colombian American explains,”the ad will be effective among Venezuelans, as well as in the Cuban and Colombian communities that share a hostility toward Chávez.” He added that,”Obama is talking about talking to bad guys, and a lot of people are here in Florida because they left those bad guys, people like Chávez and Castro.”

However it seems that the Hillary Clinton factor may be hurting Obama with Hispanics in Florida. Interviews with voters and community leaders suggest Obama’s challenge is less about foreign policy and more about who he’s not. Many Hispanic voters felt more comfortable with Hillary Clinton a name brand in politics rather than the junior Senator from Illinois.

”When Obama put Biden on the ticket and not Hillary, he definitely lost his calculator,” said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who helped conduct the Miami Herald poll.

The results from these latest polls are discouraging, since Florida Democrats have been predicting a sea change in which older Cuban Americans will be outnumbered at the polls by younger Cuban Americans and newer arrivals from Latin America who are more concerned with health care than their homelands. Democrats have also been counting on a backlash among Hispanics to rhetoric from conservative Republicans over immigration. However, the fact that Democrats won a larger percentage of Latino votes than Republicans in the 2006 mid term elections may be an indicator that Obama can still win the battle in Florida.

According to Miami consultant Freddy Balsera, who advises Obama on Hispanic outreach, “the Hispanic vote is going to be competitive, and we are going to fight harder than any other Democrat has in Florida.”

For the next few weeks we will continue to see many different polls on a daily basis. The reality is that many of these polls may not accurately reflect the thousands of individuals that have recently registered to vote. These new voters will undoubtedly have an impact in determining the winner is the state of Florida. Another factor to consider when determining the accuracy of polls such as these is the margin of error. In this case, the margin of error is quite high, so it is unclear if these polls are really a good measure of the support that exists for Obama in the state. On November 4th, victory will not be determined by polls but by the individuals who will cast their votes.

Miami Herald

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Today the Obama campaign announced the unveiling of new Spanish language TV and radio ads, in a press conference call with Miami Mayor Manny Díaz, Pomona Mayor Norma Torres, and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez. The aim of these ads is to appeal to Latinos on the issue has taken over the Presidential campaign, the economy.

Barack Obama, reaching out to crucial Latino voters, began airing new Spanish-language radio and TV ads today that assert that Republican John McCain is out of touch, capitalizing on his comment last week that the fundamentals of the economy remain strong.

The ads will be broadcast in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico — four swing states with sizable numbers of Hispanic voters and with 46 electoral votes combined.

In the TV spot, the announcer says, “For the thousands of mothers and fathers who have lost their jobs, for all the families at risk of losing their homes, for every child out of the 45 million people who have no healthcare, how is it possible that John McCain can say?”

Then McCain is shown saying, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

“The fundamentals of our economy are strong?” the announcer picks up. “Maybe John McCain and the Republicans don’t want to bother themselves with the prosperity of our families, but for us, there’s no greater obligation.”

“For the last eight years, John McCain and his Bush-Republican allies in Congress have promoted the deregulation policies that let corporations run amuck at the expense of working Latino families and all Americans,” said Federico Peña, the former Clinton cabinet official and Obama’s national campaign co-chairman. “This lack of accountability has led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Latino families are disproportionately affected by the home foreclosure crisis, the rise in unemployment rates, and the skyrocketing gas prices. Barack Obama will put our families ahead of Wall Street, and improve the quality of life of working Latinos who are suffering under this Bush-McCain economic recession.”

Rosario Marin, the former US treasurer, responded on McCain’s behalf. “Barack Obama has once again lied and distorted John McCain’s record on the economy. Instead of playing politics, Barack Obama should answer to the Latino community about why he voted to raise taxes on people making as little as $42,000 a year — a vote that would have meant higher taxes on millions of Hispanics. The only thing Barack Obama can offer to Hispanics is total lack of leadership on this issue,” she said in a statement issued by the McCain camp.

The Boston Globe

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Hispanic Heritage month is the perfect time to remember those brave men and women who dared to go where few Latinos had gone before. Edward Roybal mentored and endorsed many aspiring lawmakers, such as Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

During this month it is important to recognize how far Latinos in Politics have come in the United States, but it is equally important to remember the men and women who paved the way for the current generation. Former Congress Edward Roybal is a key figure in Latino politics and has been an inspiration to the men and women who have followed in his foot steps.

The legacy of this pioneer is still felt and seen in cities such as Los Angeles where several buildings have been named after him. In downtown Los Angeles, there’s the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building, and to the south is the Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology at USC. However he is not only remembered in the city which he served but also in other areas of the country. In Atlanta, Georgia the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named its main building after him. This month, yet another building was named after the former legislator, the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center. The center is a high school in downtown Los Angeles that serves a predominantly Latino student body. “Congressman Roybal was a champion for progressive educational issues that directly impacted Latino children,” said Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education President Monica Garcia. “It’s important students be exposed to culturally relevant role models, and Roybal is certainly a figure whose work and legacy we want to remember.”

He is widely considered the first Latino from Los Angeles’ East side to win national recognition. With his election in 1949, he became the first Los Angeles City Council member of Mexican descent since 1881. After he left for Congress in 1962, it would take 23 years for another Latino to be elected to the council. The possibility of a Mexican American serving as mayor as Antonio Villaraigosa does now was unthinkable then.
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Roybal’s eldest daughter, represents part of his former district. She recalled how during his first few terms on the council, her father faced discrimination just like his constituents.” During that time in our city’s history, Mexican Americans and other minorities were not welcomed in many parts of our city,” Roybal-Allard said. “One can well imagine the reception my father got on the City Council, there was racial slurs and not-so-quiet whispers directed at him and our family when we attended events and dinners those memories remain vivid in our minds even today.” She added, “equally as vivid is the strength and the courage he demonstrated as many tried to humiliate and intimidate him to give up his cause.”

In 1962, Roybal successfully ran for Congress in the 25th District, which stretched from Hollywood through downtown to Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. During his three decades in the House, he fought for immigrant rights, education and equal access to health care. He crafted the first bill to provide schools with bilingual teaching programs and in the 1980s advocated for funding the nation’s first research and treatment programs for AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease, before either cause was popular. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus a congressional member organization that aims to address national and international issues and the impact these policies have on the Hispanic community. When it was first formed it had a membership of 5, today it consists of 21 members of congress, including Edward Roybal’s daughter Lucille Roybal Allard.

The school was going to originally be named, Belmont Learning Center but Latino organizations pushed heavily to have the center renamed in honor of the Latino legislator.Many of the campus’ students weren’t even born when Roybal left public office in 1992, and many have yet to learn about his legacy. After classes let out on a recent afternoon, a dozen students said they were given a handout on Roybal and told about his accomplishments at orientation, but none could elaborate much on him.
“I just heard that he died in 2005 and was in politics,” said Julia Bethancourt, a 17-year-old junior. Her friend, Wendy Miron, 17, nodded awkwardly in agreement.

His daughter Lucille Roybal-Allard expressed her desire to have young Latinos remember his legacy,” I hope that when young people see Roybal or Cesar Chavez on those buildings around L.A., that they remember that you can never take the opportunities you have today for granted, because someone before you paved that road.” Having schools named after individuals such as Edward Roybal is a step in the right direction when it comes to maintaining the memory of important Latino figures alive. However, incorporating the history and accomplishments of individuals such as Edward Roybal, into school curriculum’s is the best way that we can ensure that future generations do not forget those that laid the groundwork that has allowed Latinos everywhere to succeed. In addition to learning about their accomplishments students should learn how the efforts of men and women like Edward Roybal have affected their lives and more importantly that they should take advantage of all of the barriers that have already been broken and break new barriers to pave the way for the next generation.

LA Times

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