NALEO Conference

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The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) held its 25th annual conference in Washington D.C. this summer, and Hispanic politicians and officials heard about major issues concerning the Latino community.


Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte." tonight we tell you about how the Hispanic vote will figure in the upcoming Presidential election, how race, gender, and politics play a role and about the lack of progress on immigration reforms. All those were issues talked about at the latest national association of elected and appointed officials conference held in Washington, D.C. That's next on "Horizonte."

Announcer:
Funding for "Horizonte" is provided by S.R.P.

Jose Cardenas:
Welcome to "Horizonte." the Hispanic vote is considered to be the key swing vote this Presidential election. States that went to President Bush last election could go to the democratic contender this year because of the Hispanic vote. The Latino vote was a big topic of discussion at the latest Naleo conference held in Washington, D.C. , at the end of June. The group represents over 6,000 elected and appointed Hispanic officials throughout the country. "Horizonte's" Mike Sauceda attended the event, and tonight we will hear reports he filed on topics that were covered. We start with a look at the importance of the Hispanic vote.

Speaker:
This is the official opening of the 25th anniversary --

Mike Sauceda:
For 25 years -- educated and help organize Latino officials throughout the country. Over the years the organization has grown to represent over 6,000 Hispanic officials. This year's annual conference was held in Washington, D.C. It was kicked off with a reception. Those attending the event relaxed before getting to work. Sessions covered issues important to officials representing the Hispanic community, 2010 census, education, economy, mental health, race, policy --

Hillary Clinton:
Thank you for being part of this organization. For more than that, discussing the issues that affect the Latino community and the united states.

Mike Sauceda:
Hillary Clinton addressed the crowd as did Barack Obama and John McCain. The Presidential candidates present speak to the growing power of the Hispanic vote.

Speaker:
The Latino vote is the fastest growing segment of the American electorate. It is growing by leaps and bounds faster than the overall American electorate.

Mike Sauceda:
Hispanic voters are credited for giving a crucial win to John McCain and helping to keep Hillary Clinton's campaign alive.

Speaker:
Mitt Romney was leading and won -- he won it by 54% -- he won the majority of the non-Hispanic white vote went to mitt Romney over John McCain. If no Hispanics had voted in Florida, mitt Romney would have won that state's primary. 54% voted for John McCain, John McCain won by 98,000 votes. Latinos gave the primary to John McCain in Florida. And it was that primary that put John McCain on the trajectory to become the presumptive G.O.P. Nominee. The same thing happened on the democratic side. You remember, Texas, senator Clinton had been winning 2-1 in Nevada, Arizona, other key states, and her -- she was able to continue her campaign into Texas where she split almost the non-Hispanic white votes, lost the black vote, carried the Latino vote 2-1. She won Texas by a narrow margin. Latinos gave her the margin of victory, kept her aspirations alive.

Mike Sauceda:
The Hispanic vote has historically been a low turnout vote. This professor from the University of Washington said this might be changing.

Professor:
The most heavily Latino counties, 70, 80, 90% Latino, had the highest rates of turnout in the Texas primary. Previous year's primaries, they had the lowest rates of participation.

Mike Sauceda:
Barack Obama did worse among Hispanics compared to Hillary Clinton. He is leading McCain 62 to 29% in a recent poll. Hispanics are expected to be the swing vote this November in determining who will occupy the white house.

Professor:
The Latino voters concentrated in large states which tend not to be as competitive in Presidential contests. Latinos in places like California, Texas, New York, Illinois. Those are large states with large Latino populations. In those states, they will not be as much of a swing vote because we know the outcomes of those states ahead of time. Other states in particular in the southwest, as well as Florida, you talk about states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, and even Latino communities in places like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, they do have the potential to be a swing vote. And I think there will be a lot of emphasis on those southwest states, all three of which -- all four of which of the southwest states, but the three that I think people are talking about this year, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, went republican in the last election, and if the Latino vote, which has been trending democrat, continues to trend democrat and increases in numbers, those three states, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, could all turn and become democratic this year. That is a definition of a swing vote, turning the electorate in those states.

Jose Cardenas:
With Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the race for the white house -- the conference held a topic on race and gender in -- a session on race and gender in politics.

Mike Sauceda:
The number of Hispanics in Washington, D.C. , bolstered by several Hispanic officials who attended the 25th annual conference. The Hispanic officials, local school board members, U.S. Senators gathered to hear from other politicians like Senator Hillary Clinton. They sat in on sessions on many issues important to Hispanics.

Hillary Clinton:
I was honored to have so much support in the Hispanic community. I was moved by the millions of Latinos who participated. [applause]

Mike Sauceda:
Race and gender certainly have been at the forefront in this Presidential election season. One of the sessions covered those areas. It was kicked off by --

Adolfo Carrion:
The Latino community, if you look at us across the room, we are Amer-Indian, European, we have been influenced by every European colonial power that was fighting for the lands on this side of the Atlantic. We are African, we are hybrid before the hybrid was invented, before the auto industry came up with hybrid, we were there.

Mike Sauceda:
Karen Narasaki the President and executive director of the Asian-American Justice Center talked about the Asian voting block.

Karen Narasaki:
We are the quintessential swing vote, about a third of us trending democrat, about a third democrats, a third, a little less, republicans, and then the vast majority in the individual will refuse to state or claim to be independent. Very much vote not so much on parties, but whether the candidate is speaking to their issues. If they perceive the candidate of being anti-immigrant, regardless of the party, they won't vote for them. If there is an Asian American running, they will cross party lines to support that candidate.

Mike Sauceda:
Both the Asian and Hispanic vote went heavily toward Hillary Clinton in the primary. There were allegations that the majority of Asians and Hispanics did not vote for Obama because of race. Narasaki said Clinton was a known commodity among Asians and had more contacts. Hilary Shelton of the NAACP says that Obama was not doing well among black voters as well because Hillary Clinton had an edge in the African American community as well.

Hillary Clinton:
Believe it or not, before the first primary was held, senator Clinton polled higher than senator Obama in the African-American community and in many ways some of the things raised earlier, Senator Clinton was better known, spent a lot of time raising money for African-American candidates, a lot of time providing support for our issues, and concerns, whether election reform issues or the like. She has been on the forefront of those issues. We knew her in those terms. It took senator Obama actually getting out into the communities and getting to know him.

Mike Sauceda:
Allegations of sexism surfaced during the Clinton campaign.

Faith Winter:
I flew into the airport, they had the Hillary Clinton nutcracker dolls at the airport. We had radio personalities calling her a whore on air. That is unacceptable.

Mike Sauceda:
Winter says that sexism and racism even effects the impression children have of politicians.

Faith Winter:
I speak at elementary schools a lot. What does a politician look like? They raise their hands and they say well, he is old, white, and rich. If our kids think that you have to be old, white, rich to be the ones making the decisions and studying the policies in this country, who do we think makes those decisions and sets the policy? Who do we think belongs in those positions of power? For the first time in our country, we're going in and it is not automatically -- our kids aren't saying he is old, white, and rich.

Jose Cardenas:
Immigration reform is always a hot topic at the Naleo conferences this year was no different. Participants talked about the lack of progress on the national level and the plethora of activity on the local level.

Mike Sauceda:
The nation's capitol where laws are debated and made. There has been lots of debate on immigration bills in this building, but very little in the way of results.

Delia Garcia:
I think a lot has to do because of this election year. Hopefully we will touch it as soon as elections happen so that we can get something good done, not just something in the last minute because we have an election coming.

Mike Sauceda:
After the race for the white house is over, that could change.

Delia Garcia:
I trust that we will, and I know -- I will be doing everything in my power and the people I have been working with on this issue doing everything in our power to put pressure here at the federal level because this is where it should be done, not at the state and local level.

Mike Sauceda:
At the 25th annual conference, immigration was one of the major topics. Senator Hillary Clinton said if democrats win the white house and congress, comprehensive immigration reform will come.

Hillary Clinton:
We have to win this. We have to work for this. Once we do, together we will fight for comprehensive immigration reform.

Mike Sauceda:
Senate majority leader Harry Reid also talked about immigration reform.

Harry Reid:
On immigration, we struggle hard because we were doing the right thing. We need comprehensive immigration reform. [applause] of course we need to do something about our borders plural, northern and southern borders. [applause]

Harry Reid:
We have to do something about guest worker program. We in Nevada need it as much as anyone. It is not only the agricultural community where it is needed. We have to do something to bring people out of the shadows. We have 10 to 12 million people a year who have papers that aren't in good shape. We have -- we have to do something about that. We have to put these people on a pathway to legalization, pathway to citizenship. [applause]

Mike Sauceda:
While Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, states like Arizona and Oklahoma have passed tough anti-illegal immigration laws. Lawmakers tried to pass immigration laws there.

Delia Garcia:
I -- according to the Mexican American legal education defense fund, one of our close partners, Kansas was the first state to not do anything about it. We had other states to defeat it, but we were the state doing something. We're happy with, of course, Arizona, and Oklahoma had theirs, and my colleagues from the other side of the aisle combined Oklahoma, Arizona laws into one bill, which was crazy. It was everywhere. In my opinion -- it was easier to vote against. Then they started to take it apart. Combined three different bills and made it one big bill. Anywhere from employer sanctions to mandating e-verify this year to people could rent -- it was doing a whole bunch of crazy things. We got through the session without doing anything. Those of us who voted no, I voted no on principle because I don't think we should be doing federal work at the state level. Some other colleagues voted no because they didn't think the bill was strong enough. The middle, moderate republicans and democrats who felt they had to make a vote because it was an election year, voted yes. They took all of the meat off. There was no teeth. Ended up being a bill at the end of the day I think the only thing the bill did was Identity Theft.

Mike Sauceda:
She says there's no official enforcement of immigration laws on the local level in Kansas and hopes congress will do something soon.

Delia Garcia:
I would like for them to do something about it. I think it is important what they said here. Nancy Pelosi said the principles that the congressional Hispanic caucus put forth, they are the ones in it, they would know what would work and what wouldn't.

Jose Cardenas:
Immigration reform was something that John McCain supported but criticism from the right wing of his party caused him to back off from comprehensive reform. Instead McCain breached an effort of border security. This hurt him in regards to Hispanic support. What McCain do to shore up his Hispanic support? Mike Sauceda tells us what he learned about that.

John McCain:
I represent Arizona --

Heckler:
you represent --

Mike Sauceda:
Not the best reception for Senator John McCain at the latest national association of Latino elected and appointed officials conference in Washington, D.C. He was heckled even though members were reminded ahead of time to behave themselves. It has not always been this way. He garnered up to 70% of the Hispanic vote in his run for senate in Arizona. He won't get those kind of numbers in a national election, and recent polls show him trailing Barack Obama 2-1 among Latinos. This year's election will probably see the republican candidate -- what must McCain do to shore up his support among Hispanics? Professor Matt Barreto says reaching out to Hispanics --

Matt Barreto:
The times are changing, 1976, Gerald Ford went to San Antonio to a festival, photo op to go and campaign for the Latino vote there. He got the tamale, brought it to him, fanfare, showed the utter lack of knowledge and respect and appreciation for Latino culture and even just cuisine. We're far past those days. I think candidates are starting to get savvier in terms of how they reach out to Latino voters and talk to Latino voters.

John McCain:
As I was about to say, I represent Arizona where Spanish was spoken before English was. And where the character --

Mike Sauceda:
McCain support for comprehensive immigration reform helped his support among Hispanics. That has evaporated as he has switched his focus to border security to appease the right wing of his party.

Matt Barreto:
We know that he helped the compromise bill on immigration reform. Cosponsored a compromise legislation in 2006, 2007, the two years that the senate attempted to pass a bill. He was supportive of immigrant rights, comprehensive immigration reform, and he wasn't demonizing immigrants as many on the far right was doing. Now we know he has slightly changed his position. Even though there has only been a slight change in policy, there has been a change in the impetus. When he talks about immigration reform now, he says we need to secure the borders first. That's really the only term that he is singing today. That is not resonating with Latino voters. That means immigration reform for immigrants already here is not going to happen.

John McCain:
When you visit Iraq, Afghanistan, you will meet some of the thousands of Hispanic Americans who serve there --

Mike Sauceda:
But McCain still has some qualities Hispanics like in a candidate.

Matt Barreto:
I think he could have an issue with military. We know within the Latino community, Latinos have tended to have the highest support for the institution of the military. Very high enrollment numbers in the military. When we ask questions about patriotism, very, very high support, respect for the military as an institution, and respect for war heroes, many great Latino war heroes have served in the United States military. If he plays that angle, not from a generic angle but gets to understand why the military has been an opportunity, the G.I. Bill and other opportunities for the Latino community, how they have served, the capacities that they have served, and to play to that, I think Latinos will respect that message.

Delia Garcia:
A state lawmaker from Kansas thinks McCain's connections with Arizona Latinos will help him.

Delia Garcia:
From the state of Arizona, Latinos there who will back him up. It is important to have a face that Latinos are familiar with and respect or even see themselves in, this is the person that I'm voting for. Vote for them too.

Mike Sauceda:
She says McCain and Obama need to do more to reach out to Hispanics.

Delia Garcia:
Both of them. I think it is equal. That is the question that I have gotten asked today. The same answer for both parties, first and foremost, get a Latino, Latina who is knowledgeable in Latino behaviors and issues on your top cabinet, top advisors, top staff first and foremost. Second, put money into Latino vote outreach. You need to get the voters to the voting polls. You need to do the research, polling, persons on your staff would know what to do and where to go. Those are two things I know need to happen.

Mike Sauceda:
McCain's appearance at the Hispanic conference shows he is working to get Hispanic support.

Jose Cardenas:
Senator Barack Obama leads senator McCain in Hispanic support, however, during the primary contest he trailed senator Hillary Clinton badly in support among Hispanics. What can he do to strengthen his bridges to the Hispanic community? Mike Sauceda tells us more about that issue.

Mike Sauceda:
During the Democratic Presidential primary, senator Barack Obama trailed senator Hillary Clinton 2-1 among Hispanics, not only among voters, Hillary Clinton had most endorsements from Hispanic elected officials locked up as well. There was talk that Hispanics did not support Obama because of race. A professor at the University of Washington said Hispanics had voted for Obama.

Matt Barreto:
He did very well in his home state of Illinois, not only this year, he won the majority of the Latino vote in Illinois, but previous contests when he run for the state senate, U.S. Congress, he had made a failed attempt for U.S. Congress and when he ran for U.S. Senate, he won the majority of the Latino vote in each of those contests.

Barack Obama:
You can trust me when I say I will be your partner in the white house and your champion in the white house.

Mike Sauceda:
Now that Obama is the presumptive nominee, there are ways to shore up his Hispanic support. He leads John McCain about 2-1 among Hispanics.

Matt Barreto:
Hillary Clinton had a more effective Latino outreach, endorsements, money spent on Spanish TV and radio than did senator Barack Obama. He needs to make that up. He is starting to make inroads, hired additional Latino campaign staff. If that campaign unfolds, I think he will have a chance to capitalize. McCain is sort of in a corner. He can't come out and support the immigration reform again because he is worried that will hurt his base. Obama has a chance to capitalize on the Latino vote. We will see if he does that. That wasn't the case in the primaries.

Mike Sauceda:
A state lawmaker from Kansas has advice for Obama's and McCain's Hispanic outreach.

Delia Garcia:
one of the important things is also with the media. The media that Latinos read and pay attention to. Whether -- I have friends working on the campaign who said it publicly that he is not putting in the energy, the moneys into the Latino vote this year. And we will see that in November. Hopefully he will get moving on that.

Matt Barreto:
I think Obama needs to get his name out there. Needs to get his name and his story. Name recognition is very low. Three weeks before the California election, before super Tuesday, there was a poll in California, and 25% of Latino-registered voters said they had no opinion of Obama because they had not heard enough -- this is three weeks before the election, late January. How can that be? His name recognition is low. He hasn't been in the Latino community in a state like California or Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada. He was not known in those states. In Chicago he is. He needs to work on getting name recognition out. How does he do that? Investing heavily in Latino media, Spanish and English language markets, and getting his message on Spanish language radio, doing interviews with Spanish language TV, news print, and I think that will serve a lot just to get his name out there and to tell his story.

Barack Obama:
We are all Americans. Todas Somas Americanos. And in this --

Mike Sauceda:
Whatever Obama does to increase his popularity among Hispanics will open up the big lead he has over McCain in that group.

Jose Cardenas:
I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for joining us for this special edition of "Horizonte." Have a great evening.

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