In Hilda Solís’ L.A. District, A Congressional Race Is Already Heating Up

By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión reporter and FI2W contributor

The delay in Congresswoman Hilda Solís’ confirmation as secretary of labor hasn’t kept two ambitious politicians from racing hard to replace Solís as the U.S. representative from California’s 32nd District in Los Angeles.

Gil Cedillo.

Gil Cedillo.

There is no official election date yet –it has to be set by the governor after the seat is vacated–, but there has already been some drama and controversy behind the scenes between State Sen. Gil Cedillo and Board of Equalization Vice Chair Judy Chu.

First, the potential candidacy of another Latina, State Sen. Gloria Romero, spurred talk of a division in the vote that would cause the loss of a seat that a Latino has held for about 25 years.

But Romero decided instead to focus her ambitions on an obscure race for School Superintendent of California that she had planned beforehand.

Some suggested there had been pressure to get Romero not to run for this seat, and that Hilda Solís herself was behind the effort to get her long-time political ally Judy Chu to succeed her. Solís has not officially endorsed anyone, but it’s widely known that Chu and her have been tight and have supported each other’s campaigns for many years.


Obama’s Latino Problem: Hispanic Leaders Criticize the President-elect's Cabinet Choices

By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión columnist and FI2W contributor

The last few weeks have proven again that for a “post racial” leader, elected for the content of his message -and regardless of the color of his skin- the racial and ethnic lines that subtly divide this country will surely affect the way Barack Obama governs after January 20th.

Even before taking office, the president-elect has had to confront –again- the thorny issue of his relationship with Latinos and Latino leadership. It was an issue that plagued his campaign, particularly during the primaries.

His appointments to the cabinet and to the ranks of White House “West Wing” advisors have been closely watched –and criticized- by Latino leaders. From the onset they were pushing a broad agenda, including Bill Richardson’s appointment as secretary of state.

The fact that Obama chose Hillary Clinton instead of Richardson – who supported him during the primary and had to withstand being called “Judas” by the Clinton campaign for doing it – set many tongues wagging about how the governor of New Mexico got the lesser appointment. The word “treason” was uttered by some political observers in private conversations.

The criticism began with the initial absence of Latinos among Obama’s first appointments: the economic team, the “kitchen cabinet” of close advisers that will surround him every day. There were several Latinos named to the transition team, but that was not seen as enough by some Hispanic leaders and commentators.


Bill Richardson’s Real Job: Obama’s “Latino in Chief”

Bill Richardson may not have been appointed secretary of state, but his remarks in Spanish after a brief and ceremonial thank you in English left no doubt that he had in mind a bigger role for himself in the Obama Administration: that of “Latino in Chief.”

“To our Latino community, thank you for your votes. Like he (President-elect Barack Obama) told us, ‘Yes, we can’, and our vote has been our voice,” he said in his very Mexican Spanish. “To the millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean, we have to strengthen the ties that bind us and remember the importance of a united continent.”

[Watch Richardson’s remarks here:]

Those are lofty words for somebody who is supposedly only going to deal with issues of commerce, and not diplomatic relations. But his comments made some believe that he sees himself as a link between Obama — who is said to have limited relations with Latino leaders outside of Illinois — and Latinos everywhere. (more…)

Wedge Issue No More? Anti-Immigrant Campaigning Doesn't Pay Off This Time

By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión and FI2W reporter

On Election Day, Colorado became the first state to reject an initiative by the controversial Ward Connerly, one of the nation’s leading opponents of affirmative action.

In Arizona, voters decided not to pass Proposition 202, a state ballot initiative that would have imposed extreme penalties on business owners that hire undocumented immigrants.

Illegal immigration foe Lou Barletta lost in his bid for Congress.

Illegal immigration foe Lou Barletta lost in his bid for Congress.

Some politicians who are known for their anti-immigrant positions also came up short on Nov. 4: Lou Barletta, the famed mayor of Hazleton, Pa., lost his bid to become a congressman. His city is well known as the municipality that started the rush of local ordinances against undocumented immigrants.

This time, anti-immigrant and anti-minority proposals and candidates did not do as well as in previous elections. The reasons may vary: more Democratic voters, higher immigrant participation, more important or pressing issues, like the economy. It may also be that blaming immigrants for society’s ills is becoming a less effective political strategy.

Take what happened in congressional contests. Of 21 races for the Senate and the House where the issue of immigration was brought up as a problem (usually by the Republican candidate), 19 were won by the more moderate politician, usually a Democrat . The “enforcement only” crowd didn’t have too many successes.

“It’s clear that the Republican strategy to use immigration as a wedge issue turned into a spectacular failure this year,” claims a report by NDN, an organization that promotes moderate immigration policies within the Democratic Party.


In Obama’s Hometown: Latino Voters Energized

CHICAGO – Pilar Marrero, La Opinión columnist and FI2W contributor

After early morning lines in most locations, where people voted before heading out to work, a steady stream of voters showed up at polling stations across this city where Barack Obama lives, and where he voted early morning before heading to a final campaign event in Indiana.

In Latino and African American neighborhoods, the sense of history, or just the need for change seemed to be on the minds of many.

Julia Morales, a precinct worker at the Rudy Lozano Library in the Latino neighborhood of Pilsen, said that about fifty people were lined up by 6 AM. She said it has been years since she has seen so much interest in an election. “More than ever,” she said.

Azalea Paramo, 19, voted at a polling place inside Taquería Los Comales, near the entrance to La Villita, the popular name for this neighborhood. She voted for Obama.

“I like what he stands for. I expect him to do everything he said. I am in college, so I am interested in the help he can give us to make higher education more affordable and available,” said Paramo, who is taking courses in massage therapy.

In the Division neighborhood, where Puerto Rican flags adorn windows and businesses, Angel Green voted at the St. Mark Catholic Church. His choice: Obama.


“Because I am poor,” said Green. “If I was rich I would vote for McCain. It makes no sense for the poor to vote for McCain.”

Ward Connerly Seeks Common Ground with Obama on Affirmative Action

Do the father of anti-affirmative action initiatives and Sen. Barack Obama have more in common than one would think?

According to Ward Connerly, a former regent of the University of California system and the force behind efforts to dismantle public affirmative action programs, Obama’s position on affirmative action is so nuanced that they agree on almost everything.

“I’ve read Mr. Obama’s statement that he believes his daughters should not receive preferential treatment over a poor white child,” said Connerly in an interview from the Sacramento office of his Civil Rights Institute. “I agree with him. In fact, I agree with a lot of the things he says about affirmative action, except his conclusion on the initiatives.”

The ‘initiatives’ that Connerly is referring to are the ballot initiatives Connerly has helped sponsor in Arizona, Nebraska and Colorado to end affirmative action in public university systems and government contracting.

Obama To Deploy Army of 500 to Turn Out Latino Voters: Top Latino Strategist Says Florida May Not Be Winnable

Polls may look tight right now in the presidential race, but Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Figueroa, a man who’s had several key positions in the Obama campaign –he was national field director and is now head of Latino outreach- talks confidently about, “paths to victory,” and, “expanding the universe,” of voters.

“We don’t want to go to bed on election night hoping Ohio or Florida are gonna come our way, like the last two election cycles,” says Figueroa, while he dips his fork into a seared tuna salad at a restaurant in San Diego on a recent afternoon. “We want to create different paths to victory and if we don’t win Ohio, or Florida, there’s other ways.”

Figueroa says that that the path to victory will mean, “focusing like a laser beam on four states that have a lot of Latino voters, and that were won by Bush in the last election: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida.”

His comments reflect the oft-repeated claim by the campaign that they can change the electoral map in 2008. The path to victory though, doesn’t necessarily mean expanding the map. Figueroa doesn’t believe that Obama can win Florida but he does think they can win 2 or 3 Western states if they drive up turnout.


The Inside Scoop on La Raza and Latino Outreach by the Presidential Candidates

Despite appearances and poll numbers, neither presidential candidate has a lock on the Latino vote. The National Council of La Raza convention in San Diego, which just ended yesterday (7/15/08), showed that both candidates have to overcome a strong measure of doubt among Latinos – Obama because of his race and the bitter primary battle, and McCain because of his backtracking on immigration reform.

Obama appeared first, on Sunday, and McCain the next day. They were both well received but not with the same fervor: Obama got a bigger crowd, strongest applause, and two times more press.

By the time McCain came around on Monday, the press corps was diminished greatly, many activists didn’t show up for lunch –the overflow room that was full on Sunday was virtually empty on Monday- and the excitement level had noticeably dropped.

It’s completely anecdotal evidence, of course, but it shows that the Latino groups and activist crowd that usually attend the NCLR conferences support what the polls are saying. The latest Gallup Poll of Latinos shows a 30 point difference in support between Obama and McCain. Obama is getting close to 60 percent and McCain has about 29 percent. (more…)

McCain’s Gamble on Colombia

Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain is betting he can win the election using what he believes is his strongest suit: national security and foreign policy. It’s probably his best bet, but a risky one. (more…)