Vote 2012: Latino Vote

More from this show

We’ll talk to the Arizona Democratic Party and Arizona Republican Party about their efforts to increase Latino voter participation in November.

José Cárdenas: In the race for the White House a new poll shows president Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in Arizona. The Rocky Mountain poll released last Saturday shows it's also neck and neck for the U.S. Senate race and for the first time Arizona is looking more like a battle grounds state. Not only are Latinos the fastest growing voter block but they are especially important in battleground states with large Hispanic populations. The only places where Republicans lost elections in 2010 were places with huge Latino numbers. Joining me to tonight talk about what both parties are doing to appeal to Latino voters are the Luis Heredia, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. Tom Morrissey chairman of the Arizona Republican party. Welcome. Tom, let's start with that point that we made in the introduction that the states where Republicans lost in 2010, which was otherwise a good year for Republicans, were the ones with the largest Latino voters. It seems almost as if that lesson was lost on the Republican party given the messages that went out during the Republican primary that seemed sop anti-immigrant with the exception surprisingly of Newt Gingrich.

Tom Morrissey: Well, it's not lost on me. I have been championing a change in the paradigm in the perspective of the party and of the Hispanic community, the Latino community. I am trying to really enhance if you want to say a feeling or an environment of welcoming to the Latino community because I believe that there's not one degree of separation between the Latino community and what the Republican party stands on. I do believe that there's been -- we have been timid as a party to approach the Latino community in a sincere way, and to speak to them in a manner that would be received better than you say in our primaries. I don't believe that it's necessary to draw a contrast or to have a conflict, you know, between the Republican party and the Latino community. There's no reason for it. There really isn't.

José Cárdenas: But if that's the message, seems like it's not getting through. The numbers are even worse than in the last election. The most recent numbers in Arizona, 77% for Obama, 10% for Mitt Romney. What's happening?

Tom Morrissey: Well, that really is -- that depends on who you speak about. I don't see it as that dire. In one sense. In another sense we have a lot of ground to make up. I understand that, but I think that from our perspective I know what I have been trying to do since I have been chairman is to get a broader sense of communication and to get our message out to the Latino community.

José Cárdenas: I want to come back and talk about some of the specific activities, but Luis, it does seem like the Republican party has a huge uphill battle in Arizona, and in other places, but the problem at least from the perspective of those relying on the Latino vote is that voter turnout is pretty low amongst Latinos. What are you doing about that?

Luis Heredia: It's important that we establish a relationship with voters. Latino voters are no different than independent or other swing voters.

José Cárdenas: Except the numbers in terms of participation seem to be low.

Luis Heredia: Yes. The reason because I think there is either lack of information that gets to our voters, that's why I think it's important that the Democratic Party engage Latino voters very early on. We have a lot of Latino elected officials. We have leadership in the state that takes the position consistent to the values that are important to Latino families and it's really important to expand on that relationship and motivate Latinos to turn out. When you talk in my own family, you talk about politics they want to turn it off because they don't feel that the issues are representing them. So you have to reengage them in ways --

José Cárdenas: You say They don't feel the issues are representing them. When Latinos are asked the top issues for them they seem to be the first three the same as for everybody else. The economy, health care and so forth. Education. Immigration is fourth at best on the list.

Luis Heredia: Right.

José Cárdenas: So why --

Luis Heredia: There are also the intensity of those issues. Latino families and voters are extremely concerned about the economy, how our policies are creating jobs so they have security. How we are responding to education as a component to that economic equation. And I think it's connecting the dots. That's why I think information coming from our candidates and the Democratic Party is extremely important.

José Cárdenas: so there's at least one consultant who is quoted saying turnout among Latino voters will be 50% higher than last time around. Do you think that's accurate?

Luis Heredia: I think you have all the ingredients for that to happen this year in Arizona. You have a sense of understanding about the electoral process. You saw 2010 with Governor Brewer signing SB 1070. It really took an election cycle to actually settle how change could occur. You have the election, especially in Maricopa County that is really opening the door to the conversation. I think you will have a lot of elements that will contribute to higher voter turnout.

José Cárdenas: Tom, what specifically are you and your colleagues in the Republican party doing to reach out to the Latino voter to try to stem what seems to be a pretty decided tilt to the Democratic Party?

Tom Morrissey: I'm encouraging our candidates to engage in, advertise, participate in the Latino media.

José Cárdenas: the Spanish language media?

Tom Morrissey: Yes. Jeff flake has taken the advice for one, and Martha McSally is another who has done it. Not only that, you know, it's me going out and speaking to Latino groups, encouraging in the party -- in our party we have a conservative group and a moderate group of Latino Republicans who really have not been getting along as well as they could. Broker meetings, try to get them at least talking. That's starting to have some effect.

José Cárdenas: What impact do you get when you go to these groups to talk to them?

Tom Morrissey: At first they look at me like I got eight heads. I'm the chairman of the Republican party. They have never seen a chairman before come out to speak to their group. I do go and speak to them, and I want them to know they are valued. That we value them. I want them to know us. Starting with me and I go -- I have asked people in our party to gather groups together and a lot of this happens in Tucson.

José Cárdenas: Do you have a sense whether you're succeeding or not?

Tom Morrissey: Yes, I do.

José Cárdenas: Based on what?

Tom Morrissey: Resonance. There's feedback. I'm hearing back from -- for instance I was at a univision event in Tucson couple of months ago and I met several people in the Latino community who are activists.

José Cárdenas: And who are Democrats?

Tom Morrissey: No. No. They are Republicans. But they told me they didn't feel welcome in the party. That they embraced the principles of the Republican party. I said, why not? They said we don't feel welcome. So I told them, my goal as chairman, I want my legacy to be there's an open door that you understand that you're welcome in the party. To come in and be part of it. As I say, I don't believe there's one degree of separation between what the Republican party stands on and what the Latino --

José Cárdenas: On the topic of immigration, some people feel Mitt Romney didn't do himself any favors when he used terms offensive to many Latinos referring to undocumented immigrants as illegal.

Tom Morrissey: Well, you know, I don't know, I can't speak to that, but what I will say is this. The immigration problem, illegal immigration problem, is a problem, is something that is very, very big, is very complex. It's been going on for many, many years. It's not something that's going to be solved at a debate. It's not going to be solved with a bumper sticker or in the 30-second ad. We have to have people coming from all perspectives, all sides of the argument if you want to call it that or from the discussion, bring everybody together in one place, get all ideas on the table, somehow begin to work out this very complex problem. It's very easy to point fingers, to say so and so said this and that, this wasn't productive. I understand that. I grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Three of my grandchildren are half Mexican. My late brother-in-law was a Puerto Rican. I come at it from a little different perspective. I understand that it's not about speaking Spanish. You gotta understand the culture. I think that this is what needs to be espoused. This has to be developed in the party. But we have to bring all sides to the table. All sides to begin the solution

José Cárdenas: Luis in that same debate, Mitt Romney did seem to score some points by pointing out that President Obama had made some commitments to the Hispanic community about the priority that he placed on immigration reform, that it would be something he would do in his first year as president, then he didn't. The Latino community up until the most recent action taken by the president or his administration with respect to young arrivals and deferred action had been pretty critical of the president for not keeping his promise at least the way they saw it. So is it possible that a Republican president, kind of like Nixon going to China, would have more success in implementing immigration reform?

Luis Heredia: I don't think so. You have a current Republican party that has abandoned the issue of compromise on an issue like immigration.

José Cárdenas: If that's the case what success is President Obama going to have?

Luis Heredia: I think you have the political will to enact comprehensive. He has always stood on comprehensive immigration reform but he understands politics need to come into play. We need republicans to also-- you have John Mccain fail this state and the country and we wouldn't have it had 1070 because John Mccain was running for president and walked away from immigration reform because he could not face the current Republican party and how they are advancing their -- nonissue with how they want to deal with immigration. This has set the whole country back. That's why the Republican party will pay a price. It's because of leadership even in our own state. The reason why I believe we finally have the conversation with Latinos is because Jan Brewer does not -- outreach could happen. The policy set in place by people like Jan Brewer saying she will deny driver's licenses to dreamers in the state, is offensive. It really sets our state backwards instead of actually engaging the president on solving some sort of immigration reform that will benefit the country. Those are the type of policies I think are creating the relationship. Now, we still have to make President Obama the best president as possible. That includes passing immigration reform. It's up to us within the Latino community to engage this president and our party to take action.

José Cárdenas: Tom, how do you respond?

Tom Morrissey: Can I respond to that?

José Cárdenas: Particularly at the top of the ticket here, she's not running for election, but she's the head of the Republican party in terms of the highest office, that Jan Brewer's damaging your efforts to WOO voters in the latino community.

Tom Morrissey: I don't see that she is damaging it. We're a nation of laws. Unless we have laws then nobody is safe. We don't have a country. So we have to abide by the laws. But --

José Cárdenas: On that point some people, immigration specialists, say that these children who will have deferred action will have the lawful presence required for get drivers' licenses. That's consistent with Arizona law and the governor says she won't let that happen.

Tom Morrissey: Well, the thing -- if I can take a step back, President Obama had total control of the legislature of the government for two years and he did nothing. Absolutely nothing to really mitigate this problem. Now four, five months before an election he comes up with this dream act. He didn't do any favors. He's exploiting this issue. The fact is this is a two-year program. It doesn't solve anything. Jan Brewer, the governor, is abiding by the laws. As I say, this is a complex problem. I understand that. I don't have a solution sitting here, but I do know that we have to have -- it has to be addressed from all sides of this issue. I know it's a sensitive issue to the Latino community. It's a sensitive issue to all of us.

José Cárdenas: Tom, do you think Arizona is a battle ground state and that the Latino vote will make a difference?

Tom Morrissey: I don't see it in this election. Maybe four years down the road or eight years down the road. I don't see it now. But I do see this. I feel that a lot of the Latino Democrats in all deference are Republicans and they don't know it yet, to Paraphrase Ronald Reagan. That's my view. It's up to my party to get our message out to the Latino community who we are. My party has been timid about that. But since I have been chairman, this has been one of my main projects. I understand this. We have a long way to go. But if we are able to convey our message clearly to the Latino community I think you'll see a change in the landscape.

José Cárdenas: Luis, is it realistic to think that Arizona will go democratic in the Senate race and that sheriff Arpaio will be defeated?

Luis Heredia: We have great candidates, number one. The reason we're considered this purple category, very unique -- I hope we surprise a lot of people in the country, but I still believe they are tough races. We need to engage every neighborhood, knock on every door and do the things that get out the vote, but I really believe we will surprise the country in electing rich Carmona. His position, his style is what this state needs and quite frankly the election of Paul Penzone to the sheriff's race, you could see the headlines. President reelected, Democrats take charge of Congress, whatever chamber, but the next national headline will be sheriff Joe defeated in Maricopa County.

José Cárdenas Tom, you think it will be close?

Tom Morrissey: Absolutely. I just seen the latest polls and sheriff Joe is up by 16 points.

José Cárdenas: don't you think he's one of your biggest problems in this state in terms of appealing to Latino voters?

Tom Morrissey: No, I don't. He enforces the law. He doesn't make the law. He doesn't write policy. I know he's been made a whipping boy.

José Cárdenas: But can the Republican party have any credibility in the state of Arizona defending sheriff Joe Arpaio, credibility with the Latino community?

Tom Morrissey: I believe we can if everything is right on the table. If we look at it in an unbiased view. I'm a retired federal law enforcement officer. I knew the sheriff when I worked in the U.S. marshal service. I understand the problems that he faces. Coming from a law enforcement perspective. But I have to tell you, I mean, he's been made a whipping boy because he enforces the law.

José Cárdenas: Luis, this will be the last word. We're almost out of time.

Luis Heredia: it's not only I think independents and Latinos will look at his record of gross mismanagement, lawsuits after lawsuits, independent voters are going to pry the test even Sheriff Joe Arpaio with all the millions of dollars he has to defends himself with lies basically. He has shown a record of gross mismanagement that I think the general voter will understand. That's what's going to propel an election of Paul Penzone. This race is still up in the air but sheriff Joe has had to spends $4 million with tactics of trying to fundraise. With the birther issue, some other national things. But his record of gross mismanagement are key issues. Independent voters are actually paying attention this time and we have a shot.

José Cárdenas: On that note gentlemen we have to ends our interview. Thank you for joining us.

Tom Morrissey: Thank you.

Luis Heredia: Thank you.

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
airs May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: