Hispanic Vote Could Be Telling In Midterm Congressional Elections
Momentum for candidates in 37 competitive congressional races and three gubernatorial contests this coming fall will hinge heavily on Latino voter turnout, a report released Feb. 8 by America’s Voice reveals.
Momentum for candidates in 37 competitive congressional
races and three gubernatorial contests this coming fall will hinge heavily on
Latino voter turnout, a report released Feb. 8 by America’s Voice reveals.
On average over the years, Latino voters have supported
Democratic candidates in presidential race years by at least two-to-one margins.
The Latino turnout for the November 2008 election shot to 10 million — up nearly
2.5 million over four years earlier, with a similar or stronger preference for
Democratic candidates in congressional races.
Exit surveys by the
polling firm Bendixon & Associates found that Latinos cast their
presidential ballots for Barack Obama over the GOP’s John McCain by a 75%-25%
The strong presence — or absence — of Hispanics in the
November mid-term elections can keep Democrats in power on Capital Hill or
yield a shift to Republicans, says AV executive director Frank Sharry.
Eight Senate and 29 House seats spread across 12
states, plus gubernatorial contests in California, Texas and Colorado, are very
much at play, he says.
The expected candidates for California are Democrat
Jerry Brown, the current state attorney general who served two terms as governor
(1975 -1983) and former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman.
In Colorado, Denver’s Democratic Mayor John
Hickenlooper will face off against either Scott McInnis or Dan Maes, both of
whom served in Congress.
In Texas, former Houston Mayor Bill White will compete
against U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison or current Gov. Rick Perry.
The America’s Voice study stresses that Hispanics now
comprise at least 25% of the population in 79 of the nation’s 435 congressional
Of those, 54 are represented by Democrats and 25 by
Republicans. Of the 27 Hispanic voting members in Congress, 23 are Democrats
and four are Republicans. They are concentrated in three states, California,
Texas and Florida. (See chart.)
The success of either party is largely based on how
well it addresses the issue of immigration, Sharry states.
“All these things have to play out,” he explains. “There's going to be a major mobilization in favor of
immigration reform. The final chapter has not been written as to whether
immigration reform is going to happen in 2010.”
Sharry and the panel that participated in
releasing the report do not speculate on how many Latinos will turn out this
fall. However, they point out that Latino participation significantly increases
even in non-presidential election years.
Eliseo Medina, executive vice
president of Service Employees International Union, points out with emphasis,
“Latinos want to see comprehensive immigration reform and they'll fight to get
He warns against complacency or obstruction by either the Democratic or
“If any party thinks that not
acting is going to work to their advantage by depressing turnouts, they are
mistaken. And at the same time, any party that believes they have a lock in
this community because they don't have anywhere to go is also mistaken,” Medina
says. “This is a constituency that is highly motivated and will participate.”
(Luis Carlos López is a reporter
with Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. Email him at