Local Elections

Winning over Latino Voters

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The presidential candidates are fighting for the Latino vote as the country prepares to celebrate Hispanic heritage month.

Fresno state kicked off its festivities Saturday with a Latino Heritage Festival, where Obama's supporters tried to spread the candidate's message. "The Latinos - the turnout hasn't been great. But now, it's increasing, doubling, even quadrupling in some states. It's becoming the biggest voting block next to the women and the youth vote," said Pedro Ramirez, the president of Fresno State's College Democrats. The group spent Saturday trying to register Hispanics to vote.

Eva Medina of Madera stopped by the booth to pick up a "Latinos for Obama" button. "I think he's going to represent the Latinos. And I'm a Latina and think he's going to make a change in the economy, a change for the middle class people and the lower class people," said Medina.

Fresno State professor Alfredo Cuellar says battleground states with heavy Hispanic populations will see a lot of John McCain and Barack Obama in the coming months as the two battle for the White House. "Hispanics will have a crucial, drastic, important role in this coming election," said Cuellar.

Cuellar said traditionally, new Hispanic voters tend to vote democrat in a 4 to 1 ratio. But the chair for Mc Cain's Fresno County coalition for Hispanic outreach said he's seeing more and more Hispanics turn their support to McCain, after first announcing they side with democrats. "We say, 'you know, that's the party that has a choice', they say they aren't for that. We then mention the same sex marriage and then they end up signing up as republicans," said Joseph De Los Santos.

De Los Santos said the big issues Hispanics are looking out for tend to be the economy and education. Cuellar agreed. "Hispanic voters are not as concerned on the immigration topic, which is so controversial. They tend to be more on the general topics of concern for all voters, like the economy, education, health issues etc," said Cuellar.

Cuellar believes the candidates will shy away from the immigration debate until after the election. For now, there are plenty of other issues Hispanics want to hear about.

Supporters for both candidates say they will be working hard to register more Hispanics to vote. The republicans say one of their biggest events geared towards Hispanics will happen later this month when Hispanic war hero Everett Alvarez will make a valley visit on behalf of John McCain.

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