Election Dispels Stereotypes about Latino Voters

Article excerpt

I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it: Latinos don't vote based on ethnicity or on the immigration stance of any given candidate. Like all informed voters, they cast ballots based on self-interest. Nowhere was this played out more clearly than in last Tuesday's Chicago mayoral race.

The contest was supposedly a litmus test for racial and ethnic power in this historically segregated town once called "Beirut by the Lake" after political battles between machine aldermen and a liberal coalition of mostly black and Hispanic aldermen following the historic 1983 election of Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor.

Into the ring stepped Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, who stood to become the city's first Jewish mayor.

He was joined by no less than three African-American candidates who began their campaigns at the last possible minute after a failed attempt to have black leaders nominate a "consensus candidate" to rally behind. Two of them aspired to become the city's first African-American female mayor.

And then there were the two Latino candidates. Both of whom, yes, wanted to become Chicago's first Hispanic mayor.

One was a soft-spoken Puerto Rico native with a long history of serving diverse constituents while championing Latino issues. The other, a longtime machine politician with strong ties to outgoing Mayor Richard Daley, was dubbed the de facto white candidate by one local commentator because he had not identified himself with the Latino community.

Even before this playing field was set, the local and national media were writing and talking about the possibility of citywide racial and ethnic animosity. To read some of these reports, you might have wondered whether race riots between the city's 32 percent white, 32 percent black and 29 percent Latino residents would break out in the streets.

Before the full meltdown of the black consensus candidate nominating committee, the spiciest story was why Chicago's Latino community had not united behind one candidate so as to not split the vote. As if, in any case, one person could magically unite an extremely diverse electorate via shared skin color. …