Latino Turnout: Are Latino Candidates The Answer?

You may recall I wrote about attending a League of Women Voters low voter turnout forum a few weeks ago. Local professor Richard Murray stated that 2016 could be a good year for Latino turnout if either political party runs a Latin@ VP candidate.

He further cited that 2002’s campaign by Tony Sanchez actually increased Latino turnout throughout the state. I recall Sanchez’s ads and they hit at the hearts of Mexican Americans–I certainly enjoyed them. But when Rick Perry ran ads tying Sanchez to drug dealers and money laundering, even White Democrats believed Perry and voted for him in large numbers.

We’re at 2015 and we’ve had a first test of the assertion that a Latino on the ballot helps drive Latino turnout. Post-election research showing how Chicagoans voted is quite interesting. Hispanic voters gave almost 70% of their vote to Chuy Garcia, while 66% of white voters and 58% of black voters went to Emanuel. As far as the other demographics were concerned, it’s not like Garcia was far from their issues, but they stuck with Emanuel for some reason. Perhaps Latinos were looking for change, but certainly a progressive Latino candidate did help increase Latino turnout in Chicago, according to Latino Victory Project, although numbers were still low.

Will Houston get to test this assertion next? I think it is safe to predict that a left to center Latino candidate for Houston Mayor could increase Latino turnout, but will the end-result be the same as Chicago? Would there even be a run-off? I guess it all depends on if Houstonians as a whole embrace a Latino candidate. Chicago showed a tendency, but obviously not a full embrace.

Obviously, Murray’s assertion is that there be a Latino VP candidate in 2016 to give either party a major assist, but I’m talking about a major Latino candidacy at the top of the ballot. After yesterday’s results, I tend to think results elsewhere would be the same. Latino candidates not only have to campaign to a diverse electorate, but against big money interests, and they also have to combat right-wing, anti-Latino sentiment coming out of state legislatures.

Still, I think it needs to be continually tested, rather than have prospective Latino candidates remain in their comfort zones. Certainly, it would ensure a response to those who would make Latinos a political scapegoat.

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