Saturday, April 20, 2024

2016 Could Bring Many Gains to the Latino Community

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 02:  Nevada's Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto delivers her acceptance speech after she won re-election at the Nevada State Democratic Party's election results party at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter November 2, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In one of the nation's most closely watched races, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) retained his seat for a fifth term against Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Catherine Cortez Masto

Latinos could achieve several firsts this election year, with Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto possibly becoming the first Latina in the U.S. Senate and Florida’s Darren Soto and New York’s Adriano Espaillat the first Puerto Rican and Dominican American in Congress. The two are among a cadre of Latinos who are running for top political offices in 38 states, according to a report compiled by the National Associated of Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

Voters could send seven more Latinos to Congress to raise the number serving to 36, from 29. At the state level, five Latinos are running for statewide executive offices. Some gains also could be made in state legislatures. Many of the gains will be made by Latinos who are Democrats – although Latinos hold higher offices in the Republican Party. Arturo Vargas, NALEO executive director, said Hispanics are “poised to show their political power in traditional Latino states like Texas and California, as well as in the emerging Latino areas of the Deep South, Midwest and New England.”

Cortez Masto, Nevada’s former attorney general, is in a tough race to replace outgoing Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. Recent polls have put her ahead in the race after several polls showing her behind or in a tight race. Feeling Donald Trump could be dragging him down, her opponent, Republican congressman Joe Heck recently withdrew support for Trump, angering some of his conservative base. President Barack Obama plans to campaign for Cortez Masto and Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas on Sunday.

According to NALEO, an estimated 6,100 Latinos hold state, federal and local public office, either elected or appointed. “There is a lot at stake in 2016. We are following this very closely, we want to make sure our community turns out and has the information it needs” to vote in November, Vargas said in a news conference Tuesday. Darren Soto, a Democrat, is favored to win his Florida congressional race, as is Espaillat, a New York Democrat. Their victories would be gains for Latinos because their districts are not now represented by Hispanics.

Latinos could see a loss in the Senate, however, if Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is not able to defeat Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida. Rubio has continued to endorse Trump, despite their conflicts during the primaries in which Rubio lost Florida. But polls show Rubio has been leading in the race. NALEO has projected 13.1 million will vote in this year’s election, a 35 percent increase in the number who voted in 2008. Vargas said he sees that as a minimum considering the dynamics of the presidential race. There are 27.3 million Latinos eligible to vote in the U.S.

NBC News