Awash in the Mainstream: Latino Politics in the 1996 Elections

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

meetings, and campaign strategy sessions ( Guerra and Fraga 1996). The higher the level of advocacy, the more likely that this advocacy will be successful and that Latino voters will be seen as an important campaign focus. Although there will always be Latino leaders advocating that more resources be targeted to the Latino community, Latinos need to hold substantive or important positions within Democratic campaigns when making these arguments. Therefore, Latino political leaders, including Latino candidates making explicit appeals to Latino voters, need to be strategically placed within the Democratic party in Arizona to influence decisions.

The greater the number of Democratic Latino candidates, the greater the likely Latino voter turnout, and thus the greater the potential effectiveness of Latino voters. The presence of viable Latino Democratic candidates on the ballot (both statewide and locally) can do much to enhance the salience of all statewide elections for Latino voters. Greater effort must be placed on running viable Democratic Latino candidates for local, county, and statewide elected positions.

Another strategic condition that is necessary to increase the Latino impact on elections involves community organizational development and coordination. The greater the number of community-based organizations that are not candidate- or campaign-specific, but that focus on electoral participation, the more likely it is that Latino voters will be a target of support. Organizations of this sort can be based on voter mobilization or on the development of issue positions. That is, they can focus on enhancing turnout, as mentioned above, or on developing issues that concern Latino voters. These organizations must coordinate activities to reduce replication in the same geographic region and to prevent competing campaigns from splitting and potentially neutralizing the effort. In Arizona, unlike California, for instance, there has been little coordination among Latino organizations. Local organizations are fragmented, and though there have been attempts to develop a statewide Latino political network, this has not been very successful.

Although the short-term outlook for the impact of the Latino vote on statewide elections in Arizona may not be as positive as some might wish, the long-term outlook may be brighter if stronger coalitions are formed with the Democratic party. Latino political leaders and organizations must seek to pool the resources with the Dernocratic party to begin changing the historical political marginalization of the Latino electorate into a formidable one in the future.


Notes
1
The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project initiative Latino Vote USA, Campaign "96 reported that efforts in Tucson during the fall of 1996

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