Florida Republican Marco Rubio won the race for the U.S. Senate with a wide margin — one of several victories for Latino Republicans on Nov. 2.
Other winners included Republicans Susana Martinez, elected as the nation’s first Latina governor in New Mexico, and Brian Sandoval, who won the governor’s race in Nevada to become that state’s first Hispanic governor.
Another five Republicans — Jaime Herrera, Wash., Francisco Canseco, Texas, Bill Flores, Texas, Raúl Labrador, Idaho, and David Rivera, Fla. — won their races to the U.S. House.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, “Despite these big top-of-the-ticket wins for Republican Hispanic candidates, Latino voters continued their strong support for Democratic candidates nationwide. National exit poll results show that Democrats had a two-to-one advantage-64% versus 34%-over Republicans in U.S. House races among Latino voters.”
Journalist Jorge Ramos wrote in Miami’s Spanish language daily El Nuevo Herald this week:
There is a new Latino power in the United States but it is not what we were used to. Yes there are more Latino politicians and they are more conservative.
What is interesting is that the majority of the new Hispanic politicians elected last Nov. 2 are not committed to defending undocumented immigrants.
The United States moved to the right and so did many Latino politicians. This is news. We are facing a new generation of Hispanic politicians who won in the past elections with proposals that even attacked the undocumented.
Ramos points to Hispanic Republicans from Florida Mel Martinez, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and the Diaz-Balart brothers, who have supported comprehensive immigration reform. But Red County, which calls itself the place for state and local conservative politics, and Floridians for Immigration Enforcement point out that former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio blocked several immigration enforcement bills.
Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, said on the Spanish-language political analysis show Al Punto:
Latino candidates attract Latino voter attention. We want representation from both parties. We are not going to vote for someone because they are Latina or Latino. We need to see how they will manage their state or in the case of the new senator from Florida [Rubio] what direction he takes.
A La Raza press release states that “the Latino Decisions polling, sponsored by National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and America’s Voice, found that immigration issues were critical in driving Latino voters to the polls this election. While 48% of Latino voters chose either ‘jobs’ or ‘the economy as their top concern in the Latino Decisions poll, 37% chose immigration as the most important issue.”
Unemployment in our community is almost 12 percent while it is 9 percent in the rest of the country. This impacts how we vote. Immigration is still important; it will affect how we vote. Our community went to vote to demand respect.
There are more Republican congressmen but Hispanics keep voting more for Democrats. They are not perfect but they don’t show such an anti-immigrant attitude, and that’s a problem for Republicans.
Murguia concluded there will be more state initiatives to adopt Arizona-style immigration laws, and that Latinos need to fight those measures through more citizenship and political impact.
Al Punto also invited Democratic analyst Maria Cardona; Republican analyst Adolfo Franco; and Arnoldo Torres, former director of League of United Latin American Citizens and a journalist, to discuss what the recent midterm elections mean for Latinos.
Franco said, “This is the biggest Republican majority in the U.S. House in 70 years. Voters rejected Obama’s agenda. It’s a Republican earthquake. There are seven Hispanic Republican faces in Congress.”
Franco added that as an immigrant he favors Arizona’s S.B. 1070, that Democrats are a party of fear and that comprehensive immigration reform will happen with a Republican president.
Cardona countered: “This was a Republican sweep, but exit polls show Republicans have less favorability than Democrats. This is not a mandate for Republicans to do what they want. I hope they don’t close the door in the president’s face.” She added that many Republican candidates have painted the Latino community as criminals.
“What I found interesting was the number of tea party candidates who are now coming into the House, individuals who want to reduce or eliminate the government,” Torres said. “And they are talking about working to stop everything Democrats and Republicans could do together. That worries me because it is a problem for the country, not just Latinos.”
According to Torres, with few exceptions, Republican Latinos did not win where there is a large concentration of Latino voters, and that the party was smart to launch candidates to show itself as a party that recognizes diversity, while Democrats need to change how they get the Latino vote.