Vote 2004

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Debbie Lopez, state director of Latino Vote Project, talks about the impact of the Latino vote.

>> José Cárdenas:
Good Evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to "Horizonte." Hispanics are now the majority minority. How does that affect Latino and black relations? Is there a presumed alliance? Tonight, we'll talk to Hispanic and Black leaders about that issue. And Senator John Kerry won the Democratic presidential primary in Arizona this week. Did the Latino vote have an impact on the election? We'll hear more about that and "Project Vote" tonight on "Horizonte." For years, Hispanics and Blacks fought alongside each other for civil rights. until recently, African Americans were the largest minority in the U.S. Now Hispanics have surpassed Blacks to become the majority minority. is that causing tension between the two groups or are they joining together to form a greater alliance? Joining us to discuss the black-brown issue is attorney and Hispanic activist, Daniel Ortega, and George Dean, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Urban League. Thank you both for joining us to have this important discussion tonight. Of course, there was a lot of attention this week because of the primaries on the Hispanic vote, that in turn is related to the growth of the Hispanic population. Recent articles in the New York Times and in the Arizona Republic and in this book, The Presumed Alliance, suggests that it is precisely the added growth in the Hispanic population that is needing to at least perceive tensions between the black and brown communities. Let me ask both of you this question. Is there tension in Maricopa County between the African-American and the Hispanic community and if so why?

>>Daniel Ortega:
The answer is yes. Politically there is tension. But Jose I don't think that there's any more tension between the African-American community and Hispanic community than between the Anglo community and the Hispanic community as related to politics. The problem is that because there is a perceived or should be an alliance that is perceived by the outside community between our communities that augment this alleged tension. But in my opinion is no different than other tensions that we've had with other communities.

>> José Cárdenas:
George, what do you think?

>>George Dean:
Well I think that you have to take it when you say tension between the two communities. There might be tension among some individuals segments of the individual and so forth, but I think that if you look at the overall population, I don't really believe that the tension is there to the extent that the media would have you believe or that some authors would have you believe. There are some things that are going on that relieves tension and so forth. You need to know that it's not a natural alliance except from the standpoint that we are both members of minority groups. And although one minority group might be larger than the other minority group or recently overtook another minority group, you still have to keep in mind that we are still minorities. And when African-Americans was the largest minority group in this country that did not put us in the forefront, in the seats of power and so forth, if you will. And I think just because you have another minority that is now greater by a knew few thousand, so forth, is certainly much greater here in Maricopa County and Arizona than it is in other parts of the country, does not mean that there is anything going to be taken away from one or the other, as such.

>> José Cárdenas:
Well, the media as you say, and the author of this book suggests that there is indeed tension, and some of the sources they point to are that African Americans may be feel threatened by rise in Hispanic numbers, for their part, Hispanics may be resentful of the political clout that Blacks have historically enjoyed in different parts of the community. A little later, I want to talk about that as it relates to district 8, for example, in the Phoenix City Council. Others would also point to the fact that we've had conflicts before, at least perceived conflicts. Alfredo Gutierrez running against clove vis Campbell years ago for the state legislature. What do you say about that?

>>Daniel Ortega:
But, see, Jose, that's my precise point. Yes, there has been competition between the black community and the Hispanic community with regard to certain political offices or jobs or whatever it is, but it's been the same as it relates to the Anglo community. And so what I'm saying is, we can't deny that there are conflicts there or that there is tension, but I don't believe that there it has to be on the basis of race. It's got to do with how we live our lives, daily, politically in this world of limited resources and understanding the economic and social deprivation that both groups have suffered.

>>George Dean:
I wanted to point out that competition is different than tension. We're not ready to fight each other as much as we're going to compete in the process. I mean, Alfredo running against CLOVIS, that's competition, that's won running against the other trying to get the necessary number of votes to win a particular office. That is not -- I don't see that really as a tension kind of thing, as much as as I see it two minorities competing against each other.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let me ask this question before we get to some of the specifics. Should we even be talking about this? The author of "presumed alliance" Nicholas Vaca, the subtitle says the unspoken conflict between Latinos and Blacks, has been criticized for bringing the subject up, for airing our dirty laundry in public. Do you think we are serving any benefit by discussing this topic?

>>Daniel Ortega:
Let's say as minorities, African American, Hispanic community, forming an alliance to forge ahead politically, to enhance the opportunities of our communities, is something that we ought to be striving for, no question.

>>George Dean:
Exactly.

>>Daniel Ortega:
But the reality is that we haven't always do it. There are certain issues that we don't agree on, but the bottom line is this one, Jose, we need to talk about it. We need to talk about where there is tension, if there is. We need to talk about what our differences are, if there are difference, but we only need to deal with it to the extent that we can resolve the issues, where we are together and resolve the issues, where we differ, and leave it at that, because the more we make of this issue, the greater a liability it is to our community and to our children, who we want to live together with the African American community, with the Anglo community, with whatever community. So, yeah, I think we need to deal with it, but I think we need to be careful about how far we take it without, you know, enhancing the racial strife that exists in all of our communities.

>> José Cárdenas:
Should we be talking, for example, about district 8, which has a significant Hispanic population. It's 64% of the population, versus about 14% African American, but historically represented by a black city councilman, Calvin Goode, followed by Cody Williams and now Michael Johnson in a race where these precise issues were brought up, black-brown, what does district 8 mean in that regard?

>>George Dean:
I think more than anything else, those individuals, the three names you just called, were elected because at the time that they ran for office, they were the best candidates, and that's who the people voted for. I did not see any tension, any fighting going on, in terms of CODY winning, in terms of Michael winning, versus who ever their opponents were, and it just didn't happen. It was the best candidate. And all three instances, they got each of those individuals got a large majority of Hispanic voters that voted for them.

>> José Cárdenas:
And to your point, in fact, one of the most prominent leaders in the Hispanic community, supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox did endorse Johnson in that race, and she herself has enjoyed a lot of black support in her supervisorial district.

>>Daniel Ortega:
I agree with that but I would like to frame the issue differently. I would like to not talk about tension between African Americans and Hispanics in district 8, having resulted in Mr. Johnson's election. I'd like to frame it from this standpoint. If Hispanics truly care about electing an Hispanic, in any district, not necessarily 8, they first of all have to get out to vote, and they fail to do so, number one. And number two, they fail to bring together coalitions to get themselves elected. This is a perfect example of where the Anglo community and the African American community, okay, have gotten together along with some Hispanics to elect a city councilman who happens to be African American. So it's a matter of getting out to vote. It's a matter of building coalition. It's a matter of credibility and raising money to get you elected, not because there is a tension between African Americans and Hispanics.

>> José Cárdenas:
Reverend Oscar Tillman complained when we were going through the redistricting conference, he was quoted as complaining about the fact that -- or his belief, that the maps that the commission was considering favored Hispanics. George, any comments on that?

>>George Dean:
Well, that might be true, but I think that has to do with numbers. That has to do with -- when you are looking at a population in African Americans, Maricopa County, and so forth, we're looking at 3% to 4% of the population. It's very hard to call that a district and that population is very scattered, very fragmented all over the valley, if you will. So you can't carve out a district that's going to favor, necessarily, an African American.

>> José Cárdenas:
So you think it's just a fact of the numbers, the Hispanic numbers?

>>George Dean:
The numbers make that happen, but that becomes even the more reason why it's becomes important for the two groups to be coalescing and talking about, because we have not -- we're not the enemies. We're not enemies of each other. We're still looked upon as minorities. You know, they say in the -- you are now the largest minority group. They are not saying you are the one that's now in power. You know, that didn't happen when we were the largest minority group. That's what has to be kept in its context, that numbers only work to the extent that you use that, and you take that and coalesce with others, you know. It bothers me when I look at the prison population where Blacks and browns represent perhaps 30% of the total state population here in Arizona, but we represent about two-thirds of the prison population. Why? Why does that happen? And what is it that we can do about that kind of situation? The same thing is true in our education system where we've got dropouts. You know, we lead the nation in dropouts here in Arizona, in the public schools and all of the urban areas, black and brown make up the majority of the population. Phoenix Union High School District say good example. 75% minority population in that particular district. How do we do on our test scores and so forth? What are we doing in terms of achievement? How fast are we dropping out? These are all things that we need to be dealing with, rather than talking about, individual difference and they are going to be individual differences among us. There are individual differences among African Americans, the same as there are individual differences among Hispanic Americans.

>> José Cárdenas:
George, speaking of education, there are some who suggest that that is actually a flash point between Hispanics and after cans Americans, and they point to a number of examples, most recently, the controversy surrounding Dr. GLASPER, an African American, his selection as the new Chancellor of the Maricopa community college district. You were involved in some of that.

>>Daniel Ortega:
Once again, it wasn't an issue of Hispanic versus African American. It was very simply a group of Hispanics who chose to oppose -- who chose to challenge a decision of an institution, and a person who was acting Chancellor who happened to be African American. That's what bothers me about this debate. Nobody is going to tell me and nobody is going to tell George that he can't disagree with the person that's in charge simply because he's Hispanic. He's got the right. And he should disagree with that Fern person is making a decision that's affecting his community the way he wants to see it happen. My position has always been, we disagree with Dr. the acting Chancellor. We did not disagree with Dr. GLASPER, the African American. People who paint us that way are trying to divide and conquer. They want to see us fight. If you bring the issue up, it happened to be that we were disagreeing.

>> José Cárdenas:
There were some, wouldn't you agree, within the Hispanic community, who were painting it as a black-brown issue?

>>Daniel Ortega:
Let me tell you, the Anglo community does not have a monopoly on racism, okay? It cuts across all racial lines, and there are people in the Hispanic communities, as there are people in the African American community, who have those problems, okay? And we can't cover it. And we can't act like it doesn't exist, but it is our responsibility as leaders, okay, of this community, to number one, continue to try to bring us together, understanding the differences that there are and understanding that there may be racial attitudes that keep us from coming together. We need to continue to work on that, number one, and number two, that we ought to try to work together on issues as often as possible and not ever let go of the possibility that we're going to disagree and that we're going to disagree publicly.

>> José Cárdenas:
George, your perception of that issue?

>>George Dean:
I think it's important to keep in mind that we're talking about, whenever these kinds of situations arise, like the Chancellor position there, that you are talking about individuals, you are not talking about communities. You're talking about a segment. There is always going to be a segment in the community that's going to not feel the same way as other parts of the segment feel, and I don't know that you use that to say that there is tension, there is competition among black and brown, because of one particular incident, and so forth, that was not in full support of everyone. You know, as I sit here tonight, I'm an African American, and I certainly do not speak for all African Americans in Arizona, in Phoenix. I don't hardly speak for all African Americans in my household. So I might have an opinion that is different than theirs, and you have the right, as Danny said, in the system that we live in, to go out and express that.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let me get your thoughts --

>>George Dean:
Don't label that as the whole community being like that, label it as those individuals and so forth.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let me get your thoughts on the suggestion in the media, as you put it, that a point of contention between the African American community and the Latino community is the whole issue of immigration, that Latinos are more likely, not all of them, but as a group, more likely to be supportive of measures that would make it easier to come into this country, and that African Americans are more likely to be aligned with the majority white vote on this subject, because they, too, feel threatened by the possible loss of jobs that these immigrants would represent. Do you agree with that analysis that immigration is an issue that divides the African American and Hispanic communities?

>>George Dean:
Once again, not speaking for all African Americans, for me personally, no, it is not an issue that divides us. I want to see a fair immigration policy for all immigrants that come in here. I think that the country has been very lacks in terms of how they have treated European immigrants as to how they treat Mexican immigrants, and so forth, if you will, how they treat immigrants from Haiti, you know, people of color seem to have a kind of situation existing with them, coming into this country, as compared to those who come from Croatia and Bosnia and all of these other places. So I don't agree.

>> José Cárdenas:
: Let me ask you this, Danny, some of your comments before suggested that there are differences within the Hispanic community on the question of whether there is tension between African Americans and the Latino communities. Is it a generational thing? In other words, not to suggest that you and George are getting along in the tooth, but you've been around in the while.

>>Daniel Ortega:
The three of us have been around for a while, Jose.

>> José Cárdenas:
I know. But you've grown up in an atmosphere of cooperation. Is this a generational thing or are the new younger leaders coming along no antagonistic, do you think? Or do they offer hope for even greater cooperation?

>>Daniel Ortega:
Well, I think that the whole idea that future generations are going to be less influenced by decisions based on race than older generations is very true in all communities.

>> José Cárdenas:
You think it will be an improvement?

>>Daniel Ortega:
Exactly. I think there is an improvement in generations, and I think there will continue to be, and if we're doing our job, it's going to be better for our children's children and their children, because institutionally, we're all raised, all of us are raised with some degree of race sisle. The question is how do we deal with it and how we deal with it from generation to generation. I think it's better, and I think it's going to get better, and I think more importantly, it's our job to make it better.

>> José Cárdenas:
We have a minute left. That's precisely where I want to go. Where do we go from here? How do we make it better. Is a black-latino town hall to discuss these issues the answer or what?

>>Daniel Ortega:
I think first of all, as leaders, we need to get together more often on issues that affect our community and particular on those where we agree and be big enough to get together and talk together enough to say we disagree but on this one we go our own ways and on this one we're going to agree. I'll bet that we will agree more than disagree.

>>George Dean:
I would be all in favor of that. I've been working behind the scenes for sometime now in terms of trying to pull a group of black and brown together, because we need to be talking. We're still the my snort regardless of whether one's percentage is higher than the other. And if we are going to deal with the overall society and take our rightful places in terms of power seats and positions and making sure that our communities are on an equal level playing field with the rest of the community and so forth, we have got to work together to make that happen.

>> José Cárdenas:
George, Danny, thank you both for being on "Horizonte." We appreciate it.

>> Jose:
Latinos could play a major role in who wins the presidency. That's why most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls showed up Monday night to a forum here in Phoenix sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens. Here are highlights of the event.

>>John Kerry:
He's broken his promises across the board. He said he would leave no children behind. He's leaving millions of children behind every day. He said he would do immigration reform. He's never followed through with President Fox or made a genuine effort to do immigration reform. And his current immigration reform effort is an insult. It's a work for cheap labor program that's an insult to people in this country.

>>Wesley Clark:
When you are running for the presidency against George W. Bush, you are running against a Republican party mean machine, and they are tough. You've got to have a candidate who knows who he is, who knows what he stands for, whose proved he can hang in there and slug it out and dish it out better than he can take it. I can do that. I am one tough hombre, and I will beat George W. Bush, and we're going to beat him because we need a better government in this country. Thank you.

>> José Cárdenas:
More than ever, the major political parties are trying to court the Hispanic vote. Joining us to talk about the Latino vote project is Debbie Lopez, State Director of Arizona Project Vote. Debbie, welcome to "Horizonte." Let's explain what project vote is.

>>Debbie Lopez:
Project vote is a national nonprofit 501C3 and I have a Latino vote project under their 501 (C)(3) and project vote, our main focus is to empower Latino citizens in the political process. So I only -- I not only want to focus on voter registration, but I want to focus on turnout, that's our goal.

>> José Cárdenas:
What precisely do you do to achieve that goal?

>>Debbie Lopez:
Well, we have a concept that is not a new one, but it's neighborhood organizing. What we do is we go every single door or we do site registration, and we empower neighborhoods, usually on issues such as speed bumps in their neighborhood or more lights, or more police patrols. We believe that that is really effective in tying the political process with people's daily lives. And so it's the first step in teaching people about the political process and how it affects their lives.

>> José Cárdenas:
Is this a nonpartisan effort?

>>Debbie Lopez:
Right, nonpartisan.

>> José Cárdenas:
As long as they are registered to vote, you are happy?

>>Debbie Lopez:
Right.

>> José Cárdenas:
Republican, Democrat, as long as they're registered to vote you're happy. Let's talk about the Democratic primary. Arizona and New Mexico were looked to as litmus tests, the tests in the west, in terms of appeal to the Hispanic vote. How many Hispanics were eligible to vote and how many voted?

>>Debbie Lopez:
There 3 Hun hub,000 registered Latinos, that's an approximation, because on the voter registration ballot or application, it doesn't have ethnicity. So you have to actually put it through some sort of ethnic dictionary. And so we believe that there's about 300,000 registered Latinos. Now, of that, about 61% are registered Democrats, and those were the people who were eligible, and about 186,000 registered Democrats that are Latinos.

>> José Cárdenas:
People were surprised and pleased with the extraordinarily large turnout for a primary. Was the same true for the Hispanic vote?

>>Debbie Lopez:
We registered -- these are based on the exit polls, but they are calculating some scientific calculation, but about 17% is what they are calculating that turned out to vote. Which is about 10% below the regular Democrat, but that's usually standard in the Latino community.

>> José Cárdenas:
The overall turnout was 20%?

>>Debbie Lopez:
Right.

>> José Cárdenas:
How does 17% come wear with your expectations before the elections?

>>Debbie Lopez:
I only expected about 7% turnout. I calculated the numbers left and right, based on the history, you know, the closest thing to it was probably a very contest mayoral race and the calculations I put together were between 10% and 7%. So I was pleased with the 17% turnout.

>> José Cárdenas:
What do you attribute that large turnout?

>>Debbie Lopez:
I thought the candidates did a great job, first of all, of getting staff people, trying to get endorsements from all of the Latino liters. I think all of them did a great job doing that. I think that the Latino media and the English media did a great job. The local media did a great job of putting it in the forefront and you couldn't turn on the nightly news and not hear something about the Democratic primary, and you couldn't open a newspaper and not see something on one of the candidates coming in. So the last month, they really pulled through, and so I really think the media did a great job. And then, third thing was, that they actually put money and resources into Latino-specific TV advertising, mail, phone calls, bilingual phone banks. I thought they did a great job of doing that.

>> José Cárdenas:
It's not just the Democrats who are focusing on the Latino vote, the Republicans have been active in this area, too. Do you see more Latinos voting Republican?

>>Debbie Lopez:
We have over the last few years, this state has gone from 80% of the registered Democrats -- registered Latinos being Democrats, and to now we're down to about 62% that are registered Democrats. And then there's -- actually, the highest percentage of Latinos are even higher than Republicans, are the independents. The independents are growing in number. So there is about -- there is probably about 45,000.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let me ask you one last question, and that has to do with voting by mail. Has that been a success in the Latino community? We've got a few seconds.

>>Debbie Lopez:
Right, we have seen a great increase in vote by mail, about half of Latinos vote by mail, and that's attributed to us putting money and resources into a vote by mail program that's specific to Latinos. So I think that we're going to see change in the future.

>> José Cárdenas:
Debbie Lopez, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." That's our show for tonight. Join us next Thursday for more in-depth coverage of issues affecting the Latino community. Thank you for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

George Dean: President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Urban League;

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