Hispanics gaining clout in elections

Keywords: Voting,

A fast-growing Hispanic population will have increasing importance in Colorado and national elections, statistics from a new report show.

The votes are there for either major party, but Republicans appear to be turning their back on Latinos, three commentators said during a call-in Wednesday regarding the survey prepared by America’s Voice and Latino Decisions.

The panelists were prominent Democrat Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado and secretary of the Interior; Gabriel Sanchez, director of research at Latino Decisions and professor of political science at the University of New Mexico; and Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota.

Patty Kupfer, managing director of America’s Voice, moderated.

Hispanics comprise 21 percent of the Colorado population, the report said. Fourteen percent of them are eligible to vote, but only 57 percent of those eligible actually register.

That leaves 213,000 eligible voters up for grabs, the report said.

By 2020, 1 in 4 Coloradoans will be Hispanic, a figure that is set to rise to 34 percent in 2040, according to published state estimates cited by the report.

The vast majority of Hispanics in Colorado, 75 percent, are native born, with the average age of 26 compared to the average age of non-Hispanics – age 40.

Salazar said Republicans running for office this year are on the wrong side of issues. He cited immigration reform, health care and minimum wage.

In choosing a candidate to run against Gov. John Hickenlooper in November, Salazar said, the Republican choice of Bob Beauprez was a mistake.

“Beauprez is equal to Tom Tancredo,” Salazar said. “His views are too extreme.”

Republicans are writing off the Latino vote, Salazar said.

Hugo Chavez-Rey, chairman of the Colorado Hispanic Republicans, who spoke Saturday in Durango at the Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner, begs to differ.

He told the gathering that jobs, not immigration, is the major issue for Hispanics. Hispanics, he said, tend to be conservative on economic and social issues.

Chavez-Rey said Republicans only need to work harder to bring Hispanics into the GOP fold.

Sixty percent of people in the country believe the nation is on the wrong track, Chavez-Rey said.

A trend that has to be reversed is the negative image that mainstream media paints of Republicans, he said.

The Latino vote has been increasingly important since 2008, Monterroso said. But Republicans, he said, have ignored the fact.

“The best chance for the Republicans is to talk with respect to Latinos,” Monterroso said. “But they seem to be turning their backs to Hispanics.”

Immigration reform is close to the hearts of Hispanics, Sanchez said. The survey found 63 percent know an undocumented immigrant and 35 percent know of a Hispanic who was deported.