Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Politicians Want to Woo Latinos as 1996 Elections Approach, Republicans Are Eyeing the Fast-Growing Pool of Latino Voters in the US; but Latino Ties to the Democratic Party Remain Strong

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Politicians Want to Woo Latinos as 1996 Elections Approach, Republicans Are Eyeing the Fast-Growing Pool of Latino Voters in the US; but Latino Ties to the Democratic Party Remain Strong

Article excerpt

NINE of his brothers voted Democrat in 1992, but not David Medrano. The Austin upholsterer discarded 80 years of family tradition and backed President George Bush.

Republicans claim that such defections are a trend among Hispanic Americans. But before counting Mr. Medrano among the GOP faithful, they should know that he expects to vote for President Clinton next time.

Traditionally 65 percent to 75 percent of Latinos have backed Democratic candidates, but there's evidence that the increasing prosperity of some Hispanics is leading them to the Republican camp. Latinos are not a monolithic voting bloc. "Would you think of white voters as a bloc? No," snorts Luis Plascencia, assistant director of the Tomas Rivera Center which researches Hispanic issues at the University of Texas.

But politicians are determined to figure out how to appeal as widely as possible to Hispanics, a segment of the United States population that is growing seven times faster than any other. Hispanics are also expected to vote in increasing numbers. The Southwest Voter Survey says 1.5 million Latinos in California will vote in the 1996 election, a 50 percent increase over their turnout in 1992. Already they tip races. Hispanics gave Dianne Feinstein (D) of California the necessary margin of muscle to cling to her US Senate seat last fall.

"Those votes are key. You need them," says Jason Poblete, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee who previously filled the now-vacant post as director of Hispanic affairs. Reaching those voters is complicated by a diversity acknowledged by all sides.

Cuban-Americans in Florida have long regarded Republicans as more reliably anticommunist. Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans have been stably married to the Democrats. But differences of geographic region, economic circumstance, age, and foreign vs. US nativity twist the kaleidoscope.

Last year, Leonel Castillo surveyed Hispanic voting patterns in Harris County, which encompasses Houston. "We found an almost exact relation between income and party affiliation," says Mr. Castillo, who served as commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Carter.

Once their earnings reach $20,000, Latinos vote GOP. That finding led some in the party to joke that "poverty will keep us Democrats," says Castillo.

It's no joke to Antonio Garza, the top Hispanic aide to Republican Gov. George W. Bush. "More and more Hispanics are reaching that threshold," he says. And once they cross it, they are more likely to vote, too.

Medrano, the upholsterer, certainly follows pocketbook issues. He credits Mr. Clinton for the current prosperity of the shop he operates next to his home. For the first time in 12 years he is able to keep up with his bills. One of his five sons finally bought a house, after trying since 1988. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.