Latino voters will be the most sought after segment of California’s population as the 2010 election takes shape. While the “Complete Count” campaign prepares to launch in April by the Census Bureau, organizations like the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NaLEO) have been busily registering the growing number of Latino voters. This push, along with the state’s economic climate, the continuing partisan battles and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision will be key in shaping the Latino vote.
In the report “The Million-Latino-Voter March: A Yearly Event” by Dr. David E. Hayes-Bautista, Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, a dramatic truth about Latino voters is illustrated. “Every year, ever since 1990, nearly one-quarter of a million US citizens have been born in California of Latina mothers,” Hayes-Bautista writes. This means that by the 2012 presidential election, there will be more than one million Latino voters added to the state’s electorate.
Dr. Hayes-Bautista goes on to state, “These US citizens are already here. They will inevitably turn 18 years of age. Day by day they are absorbing experiences that will influence their voting registration and party affiliation.”
The recent Massachusetts special election to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a political icon, resulted in a win for the Republicans, whose views were perhaps more in line with voter concerns than his Democratic, and heavily favored, opponent. It is believed this strongly expressed voter concern stretches the width of the country and will appear in California’s election, perhaps translating into a loss for incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer to a Republican opponent. A recent Field Poll shows Republican competitor Tom Campbell within 10 percentage points of Boxer. Campbell has enjoyed Latino support in his past bids for Congress representing Northern California.
California is experiencing its worst unemployment rate, reaching over 12 percent, two percentage points higher than the national average. This includes many unemployed Latino blue-collar workers. In addition, a recent Field Poll showed that 95 percent of California voters believe the economy is bad, with the majority believing this will not get better this year. The lack of economic growth has also contributed to the poor ratings state public officials, most of which are Democrats, have received from California voters. Now with the U. S. Supreme Court ruling that large firms and unions can spend freely on presidential and congressional elections, experts believe this will give Republicans an edge in future elections.
Several years ago, Dr. Bautista published another report that found Latinos over a 60-year period (1940 to 2000) demonstrated “…a strong social behavior; the highest rates of labor force participation in California; more hours worked per week; more employment in the private sector; stronger families; and less welfare usage than any other ethnic group.” Based on the Supreme Court ruling, the potential of Latino voters supporting Republicans in traditionally Democratic held seats could be raised through well-targeted advertisements, sponsored by large firms, focusing on these attributes.
California political leaders in both parties believe there will be another extensive and partisan budget battle that may linger for several months. Such a demonstration of political grandstanding will only add to a souring voter attitude with neither party winning.
In the meantime, the “Million-Latino-Voter March” will continue to unfold, being influenced by their day-by-day experiences.