There remains opportunity for Virginia’s political candidates to cultivate a booming Hispanic vote this November. Amidst Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations the question is which side of the aisle wants it more?
President Obama’s delay in fulfilling campaign promises on immigration reform has Latinos politically despondent. That’s one reason democrats appear more focused on the Latin vote.
Governor Terry McAuliffe perhaps knew that when he recently hosted 100 Virginia Latino movers and shakers at the Governor’s Mansion, serving chicken skewers with Pico de Gallo salsa that could have used a bit more salt. Reading his Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month proclamation and speaking to achievements and the voting potential of Virginia’s 710 thousand Hispanic Virginians, McAuliffe stated, “I would not be here without you.”
McAuliffe cited Hispanics and Latinos owning over 28,000 Virginia businesses employing tens of thousands of votes that would sway any election. Today they mean more than ever to both sides of the political aisle. So much that people like Monique Alcala, President of Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia, has helped organize workshops throughout the Commonwealth. There Secretary of the Administration Nancy Rodrigues is voluntarily presenting classes aiding interested citizens using the Virginia.gov website to fill the 1,557 available jobs working for the state as well as apply for thousands of state boards and commission positions.
Rodrigues says Latinos should use the strength of their language diversity and their growing demographics in the Commonwealth as he noted, “Obviously Virginia is changing and so should our workforce.” McAuliffe seeing this has added a “bilingual skills” to part of the state jobs website section.
Today Hispanics watch carefully not only what is being said but what is being done by both parties. Minority veterans particularly examine the actions of the Republican-controlled general assembly and stalled “dream act” legislation. Such actions remain indicative of an out of touch Republican mindset that has decimated their one time lock on Virginia’s top three political offices.
But in spite of delegates led by Stafford Speaker William Howell and his dogged refusal to respect veteran dreamers and their families, expect Virginia’s Latino Advisory Board (VLAB), with their full complement of McAuliffe appointees, to take a more activist role involving general assembly issues like the Dream Act.
Elections indeed have consequences and within the traditional Hispanic family, contrary to macho male ideology, remains historically strong women effecting change. VLAB appointees will see such change and organization with newly appointed members like Gloria Maria Peña Rockhold and Vivian Sanchez-Jones.
Republicans will attempt to use their feminine clout with the appointment of former Bush presidential appointee Theresa Alivillar-Speake as head of their new Virginia Hispanic Advisory Council. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and former U.S. Treasurer Anna Cabral headline Virginia candidates for Congress and Senate as they host their conservative Hispanic Heritage event at Casa Speake on October 4.
But for conservatives and the Dream Act dilemma, the difficulty remains legislatively with staunch military minds such as Delegates Scott Lingamfelter and Rich Anderson of Prince William along with State Senator Bryce Reeves of Culpeper/Fredericksburg who refuse to embrace present Dream Act legislation. All are former military commanders representing large groups of former minority “enlisted” veteran localities who no longer take orders, but give them at the polls and support the initiative.
The military reality is that no one checked citizenship status as the bullets were flying during my Vietnam combat experience. And it’s not happening in the Middle East today. That and the fact that over 60 members of the Hispanic community have been awarded the Medal of Honor since the Civil War should raise eyebrows. This topic is important, and ignoring Hispanic sensitivities has hurt primarily Republicans the most.
Think not? Well, ask former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. During the heated November election Cuccinelli the candidate stumbled badly refusing to walk back hard-hearted comments about Hispanic immigrants. Latino veterans subsequently closed wallets to Cuccinelli and questioned his leadership after Marine Corps officials verified their refusal to retain Second Lieutenant Cuccinelli after only a 3-month stint on active duty in 1994. Without contrition, his refusal to advance a path to citizenship or act responsibly on Dream Act issues for the undocumented and their U.S. born children cost him the Hispanic vote and the election.
Today for McAuliffe and Democrats, the solution to maintain voter loyalty is continued action by Rodrigues and Alcala plus needed gubernatorial executive action protecting undocumented children, Virginia’s guest worker issues, and Dream Act failure. For Republicans and their tea party faction, Alivillar-Speake can’t do it alone. Recognizing the failure of Speaker Howell regarding Dreamers, one has to ask, “Is a change of leadership needed?” Amid celebrations and concerns, Hispanics will be watching, carefully preparing who to vote for in November.
Daniel Cortez a distinguished Vietnam veteran and northern Virginia political writer and broadcaster who is active in veteran’s and minority affairs. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org