“Did Hispanics save Harry Reid?” is the question asked by Newsweek magazine, and without exception, analysts and pundits answer, “yes”. An aggressive and focused ground plan targeted Latinos in the most-watched election in the country. The Hispanic vote increased to 15% of the Nevada voters up 3 points from the last mid-term election and supported Reid by a whopping 90% to 8% for Tea Party favorite, Sharon Angle. As predicted, Republican Hispanic, Brian Sandoval, defeated Rory Reid for the governorship.
In the nation’s most populous state, Latino voters came through and widened the margins of victory for Democrats in what were close contests for both governor and senate. Jerry Brown defeated eBay CEO Meg Whitman by garnering 86% of the Latino vote in an election that saw spending by the self-funded Republican break historical records. Barbara Boxer was also able to fend off a challenge by another Silicon Valley CEO, Carly Fiorina, to return to the US Senate.
A current member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Jim Costa (CA-20) is facing defeat in a bid for re-election for his Central Valley seat. The Democrat trails his opponent in a race that remains too close to call currently. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who had been the target of a Republican spending wave in hopes of unseating her, was able declare victory in her Orange County district.
Sen. Michael Bennett, the incumbent Democrat, went from being an underdog to winning this tight election by one point. In a state where Latinos were 10% of the vote, they supported Bennett by 81% to 19% for the Republican.
The state with the largest percentage of its population being Hispanic elected the nation’s first Latina governor, Republican Susana Martinez. However, according to exit poll tracking of the firm, Latino Decisions, Hispanic voters in this state gave the majority of their support to the Democratic candidate for governor.
A true Republican wave swept Texas and unseated two Latino Congressional Democrats, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and the senior member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Solomon Ortiz. Rodriguez will be replaced by Republican businessman, Francisco Canseco.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, a national labor, was unsuccessful in her bid to become the state’s Lt. Governor.
Republican Marco Rubio will become one of two Cuban Americans and only Hispanics in the US Senate. (Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey is the other.) Coasting to an easy victory over both a Democratic and Independent challenger, Rubio’s name is already being floated as a VP candidate for 2012.
During his primary election fight, Rubio swung to the right to gain the support of Tea Party voters and even switched his position to express support for Arizona’s controversial immigration measure, SB 1070. In a state with a conservative Latino electorate, Rubio did win the far majority of the Latino vote.
Riding the coattails of Rubio’s victory, Republican David Rivera defeated former Obama Administration official, Joe Garcia, for Florida’s 25th Congressional District seat.
Finally, in a state that has been at the center of so much national debate, the Republican Party of Arizona enjoyed some easy victories re-electing Sen. John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer. While Latino voters supported Democrats by large numbers, the percentage of Republican voters was too great to overcome.
While Rep. Raul Grijalva declared victory in his re-election bid, the race has still not been called nearly two days after the election. Grijalva, who had been an early outspoken critic of SB 1070 and supported a boycott of the state, faced an unusually strong and very well funded Tea Party opponent. In this Democratic district, he maintains a very slim lead as votes continue to be counted.
According to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, a “record number” of Republican Latinos were elected to Congress on Tuesday. They include:
Marco Rubio, US Senate, Florida
Raúl Labrador, Idaho’s 1st Congressional District
David Rivera, Florida’s 25th Congressional District
Bill Flores, Texas’ 17th Congressional District
Francisco Canseco, Texas’ 23rd Congressional District
Jaime Herrera, Washington’s 3rd Congressional District
As noted by NALEO, some of these candidates won in districts that had a very small Hispanic population.