Awash in the Mainstream: Latino Politics in the 1996 Elections

By Rodolfo O. de la Garza; Louis DeSipio | Go to book overview

4
Similar Behavior, Different Results
Latinos and the 1996 Elections in Colorado

Rodney E. Hero, Patricia A. Jaramillo, and John C. Halpin

Colorado is one of nine states with a significant Latino population. Evidence from the early 1990s indicates that Latinos made up approximately 13 percent of the Colorado population and are predominantly Mexican American. The U.S. Census Bureau projected that the Latino voting-age population for the 1996 election would comprise 12 percent of the state electorate ( U.S. Census 1996). Because it has a high rate of adult citizenship, the Colorado Latino population, if mobilized and relatively cohesive, can have significant impacts on statewide elections, particularly in close races. Notably, Colorado's Latino voters in presidential elections often comprise a proportion quite comparable to their proportion in the general population. This contrasts with other states with large Latino populations where there is often a large gap between the percent of Latinos in the population and the Latino share of actual voters. In the 1992 elections in Colorado, for example, Latino impact appeared substantial ( Hero 1996). In 1996, Latino voting patterns were quite similar to those of 1992. For several reasons outside of the control of the Latino community, however, the impact of that vote was diminished.

In the 1992 presidential race in Colorado, Latinos were said to have been "essential" to the state's electoral results. In a close contest, Latinos appeared to provide the margin of votes for Clinton to overcome proRepublican leanings among non-Hispanic white voters and swing the state in Clinton's favor ( Hero 1996, 91). Clinton's 1992 plurality was especially notable in that it was the first for a Democratic presidential candidate in Colorado in almost thirty years. In addition to affecting the general election, it has been speculated that Latinos importantly influenced two other races: (1) Clinton's second-place finish in the 1992 Colorado

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