Elections Central: The Latino Influence

The Latino American population’s influence in politics is on a strong incline. This is clear with every new election which is offering more candidates from this background. These candidates aren’t just running for positions, but they’re either winning or making huge strides in the course of their campaign. One clear example of this is Adriano Espaillat, the democratic nominee for New York’s 13th congressional district. The state senator won the nomination out of nine candidates, one of which being State Assembly Member Keith Wright (who he defeated by only the small margin of 2.8%). The election will be held on November 8th of this year and will pit Espaillat against Tony Evans, a New York attorney. Evans is not expected to make it too far in November’s election, considering that the incumbent representative, Charles B. Rangel is a democrat, and has held this position for 45 years. Espaillat seems to be appreciated by his fellow members of the Democratic Party; he has even shared a cute moment with the presidential democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

So how did Adriano Espaillat become such a paragon of Latino political success? Perhaps it’s hereditary; saying that he is a descendant of Ulises Francisco Espaillat, the President of the Dominican Republic in the late 1870s. Immigrating from the Dominican, Espaillat pursued an interest in politics even during his college career. After graduating from Queens University with a degree in political science, he soon became a member of the New York State Assembly. This was the first time a Dominican-American was elected to a state legislature.

Espaillat will have pretty large shoes to fill when/if he takes office. The tenure of the incumbent representative is a clear indication of how the citizens of the 13th district felt about him (or perhaps a clear indication of how little voters pay attention in non-presidential elections). Charles B. Rangel does seem to keep his voters’ needs in mind while serving in the House. Some of the most memorable aspects surrounding Rangel’s incumbency involved housing reform. He sponsored the Public Housing Tenants Respect Act of 2011 which eradicated the previously mandated community service and self-sufficiency programs for those of lower socio-economic status who lived in public housing.

Do not let Espaillat’s political affiliation fool you into thinking that Latinos are only getting involved with the Democratic Party. Take Marco Rubio, for instance. The Florida state senator and former republican presidential candidate ran the latter campaign with strong appreciation for his Cuban background. Many of his campaign commercials featured Spanish, saying “Conoce nuestras calles. Nuestras comunidades. Nuestras pasiones. Comprende nuestros sueños. Cree en nuestro futuro. Porque nunca ha olvidado de dónde viene” which translates into “He knows our streets. Our communities. Our passions. Understands our dreams. Believes in our future. Because he has never forgotten where he comes from”; this was surely an attempt to reach his fellow Latino brethren. The Republican Party saw another huge Latino candidate in Ted Cruz. His presidential campaign led to him becoming the first Latino candidate to win a presidential caucus. His Iowa caucus victory speech didn't directly celebrate this historic accomplishment, but his rhetoric definitely suggested how monumental the occasion was. “Tonight is a victory for the grassroots...all across this great nation...the next president of the United States will be chosen by the most incredible powerful force”. He gave thanks to his parents as well, saying “and to my dad, a man who came from Cuba at age 18 with nothing…you have been my hero my whole life”.

Not only are they running for office in both parties, but Latinos are also becoming integral to the success of either sides. Being the countries biggest minority makes their vote so pivotal that both Republican and Democrats are sure to fight for it. According to CNN, there are about nine states (including Nevada and Florida) where the Latino vote could have a huge influence on expectedly close races; “in very close elections in each state, Latinos may determine the victor despite the fact that they will be a small portion of those who vote". Seeing more of a balanced split from the Latino community is fascinating, especially when you consider the consistency in which affinities such as African Americans vote for one specific party. Being more of a swing demographic, like Latinos, forces politicians to tailor their campaign to appeal to that group in particular. When a specific race, or other demographic, shows the type of voting consistency the African American population displays, both political parties show less interest in their needs. The party the affinity usually votes for (African Americans for democrats, in this case) has no reason to appeal to these constituents because they’ll receive their vote regardless. And the opposing party (republicans, in this case) has no desire to pursue this vote that already seems locked in for the other side. By appearing attainable, the Latino population has both parties fighting to gain their allegiance. From the vote for the next president to the clinched nomination of Adriano Espaillat, Latinos are taking politics by storm, and we should look forward to the expanding role they’re coming into.