IS JOAQUIN CASTRO THE NEW LATINO POWER?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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It struck two months before, more than 1,000 miles from his home district of San Antonio, Texas. But Hurricane Sandy, which caused death and destruction in so much of the Northeast, was weighing heavily on Joaquin Castro on a blustery day in mid-January. That is when he cast his vote in favor of a $50.7 billion emergency bill to provide help to Sandy victims – his very first vote as a U.S. congressman.
“It was an awful tragedy,” Castro, 38, said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “It was my first real vote in Congress. It reminds you of how connected we all are despite the fact that we all represent a different geographic area.”
The former Texas state legislator may be in a bigger pond, but he’s no small fish. Joaquin Castro is already one of the most watched new members of Congress. Shortly after being sworn in, Castro was elected by his Democratic peers in the House to head their freshman class.

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“It’s quite an accomplishment that your colleagues have that kind of faith in you that they elect you to be president of their class,” said former Texas Congressman Charles Gonzalez, whose decision not to seek an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives opened the door for Castro to make his move. “It’s pretty hard to get elected. There are no slackers in there. Everyone who got elected rose above other people in what generally were very contested races.”

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“Many have admirable records either in the public or private sector,” Gonzalez, a Democrat, said. “He’ll be trying to keep that class of Democrats united not just for this Congress but for the next.”

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Those who have watched Joaquin Castro and his twin brother, Julian, for some time say they are not surprised that they are – at a relatively young age – causing a sensation at the national political stage. Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, was the bigger star of the two last summer when he was picked to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He made history, becoming the first Latino chosen for that role.

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But in November, Joaquin – who until then was described more often than not as “Julian’s brother” – commanded the brighter spotlight when he was elected to Congress.
“The possibilities are endless for Joaquin,” said Mickey Ibarra, a former Clinton administration official who is founder and chairman of the Latino Leaders Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together Latino movers and shakers. “Now he and Julian have a national platform. It’s potentially the start of something that lasts a very significant amount of time.”

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In Texas, Joaquin Castro was known for pushing for improvements to education, and raising high school graduation levels among Latinos. Critics find him personally affable though they take issue with his liberal-leaning politics and Democratic views on government spending. Castro said he started entertaining the thought of political office beyond Texas just a few years ago, when he realized there were some things he could not fix as a state lawmaker.

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“I remember when the No Child Left Behind blueprint came out,” he said, “I read the whole blueprint. I attended meetings with folks in education. I noticed that not once did the blueprint mention the word ‘counselors.’”
High school counseling long had been a pet concern of Castro, who saw it as lacking because, he said, the student-to-counselor ratio in much of Texas was 420-to-1. It was something he pushed to address in the state legislature. But improving counseling – which, he said, often is hampered because advisors’ workloads are spread too thin – was critical at the national level, he said.

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“I realized the way I wanted to approach some issues, I would have to deal with them at the federal level,” he said. “There were gaps in my ability to do things at the state level.”

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Joaquin Castro, arguably, is the face of manifold trends involving Latinos and politics.
“If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community, in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority part in our state,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and also a first-timer in Congress, was quoted as saying in The New Yorker.

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Some media reports are already spinning visions of a contested Senate race in six years between Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who was just elected in November, and Joaquin Castro. In the race for Gonzalez’s seat, Castro defeated Republican David Rosa.

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IS A LATINO DEMOCRATIC SENATOR CHALLENGING CHARLES RANGEL?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Manhattan State Senator Says He’ll Challenge Rangel

Adriano Espaillat, a Democratic state senator who represents Washington Heights, announced on Monday that he would run against Representative Charles B. Rangel, ending months of speculation over his potential candidacy and setting the stage for a campaign that could test the strength of Latino influence in the district.

Mr. Espaillat, the first Dominican-American to serve in the State Legislature, was elected to the Assembly in 1996 and won a seat in the State Senate two years ago, with an endorsement from Mr. Rangel, a Democrat. If Mr. Espaillat wins, he will be the first person of Dominican descent to be elected to Congress.

The district’s lines have been redrawn by a federal judge as part of the decennial redistricting process, altering its demographics. The new district, which includes most of Harlem, Washington Heights and a slice of the Bronx, is about 55 percent Hispanic, compared with 45 percent in the old boundaries, according to Steven Romalewski of the City University Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research. About 27 percent of the district’s voters are black. Mr. Rangel’s mother was black, and his father was Puerto Rican.

photo source: Getty Images

It will be a formidable challenge for Mr. Espaillat, 57, to overcome the longtime electoral strength of Mr. Rangel, 81, particularly given that the primary, on June 26, is likely to be a low-turnout event in which candidates with strong get-out-the-vote operations will have an advantage.

But Mr. Espaillat may benefit from Mr. Rangel’s recent ethics problems; Mr. Rangel and his campaign recently agreed to pay $23,000 for misusing a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office, and Mr. Rangel was censured in 2010 after the House Ethics Committee found him guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, including failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income.

Adriano Espaillat (Photo: NY1)

“I believe that the people of the 13th Congressional District are searching for leadership with bold, new ideas in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Espaillat said in a statement. “I intend to conduct a vigorous campaign that will allow a full debate on the future of our city and state. Together, we can make history and bring real change that uplifts our communities and builds a stronger New York and a stronger country.”

Mr. Rangel’s campaign responded to Mr. Espaillat’s announcement by reaffirming in a statement the congressman’s commitment to the office.

“The congressman is running to serve another full term in Congress because he firmly believes, as he did 21 times before, that he is the best candidate to make a difference in the community,” the statement said.

Mr. Rangel, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said last week that speculation that he was hoping to win one more election to be able to hand off the seat to a preferred successor was untrue. “I am not in this race so I could politically manipulate the system,” he said. “I intend to serve my entire term.”

(Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Landov)

In addition to Mr. Espaillat, two other challengers say they will run in the Democratic primary: Clyde Williams, the former national political director for the Democratic National Committee, and Joyce Johnson, a former local Democratic district leader.

READ MORE: POLITICKER NEWS

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WILL ATTACKS ON VOTING RIGHTS ACT ALSO MOBILIZE BLACK TURNOUT?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

(Photo: Phelan Marc/BET)

Rep. Karen Bass (D-California) has an interesting theory about how to handle assaults on women’s health care issues and efforts to disenfranchise certain voters, as well as the personal and often racist attacks onPresident Obama. Use them as incentives, she said, to not only help him win re-election, but also so Democrats can regain control of the House and retain the Senate.

“We get real motivated when one of us is attacked,” Bass said during Tuesday’s Leading Women Definedluncheon.

Bass said that Republicans developed a “brilliant long-term strategy” that included regaining control of the House of Representatives and several state legislatures just in time for redistricting. But it may not work out as planned, Bass noted, because of the demographic shifts that have taken place and the growth of minority populations. She believes that’s why states are working to implement stricter voting rules that would make it difficult for many minorities to vote in 2012.

“The president has to be re-elected and we have to take back the House and keep the Senate. If we don’t do that then President Obama is going to be left in his last four years with a Republican-lite agenda because he’ll only have the power of the veto,” she said. “Given the way they’ve behaved over the past 15 months we can imagine what would happen in that second term.”

MSNBC contributor Joy-Ann Reid agreed that the GOP was attempting a long-term game, but said that they’re looking at a “long-term disaster” because by 2020, the electorate will be majority minority and the party still struggles to win minority support.

“They have to grow their Hispanic vote and other groups besides white males or they have to suppress the other team,” Reid said.

According to Bass, voter suppression is an issue that should motivate African-Americans to head to the polls this fall in droves.

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“We can really use this. It generates emotion to know that they’ve gone so far to try to prevent Obama from being re-elected that they’ve turned back the clock on the civil rights agenda in terms of us being able to vote,” she said, adding that Democrats must use that as a catalyst and motivator to get African-Americans to turnout at the polls.

 

HOW DID TEXAS COME OUT IN REDISTRICTING: REPUBLICANS VS. DEMOCRATS

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

In Battle for Political Conquest, Ethnicity Sets the Boundaries for Both Parties

photo of Texas State Capitol Building in Austin at night

The political maps are out, finally, and this is as good as it gets for Texas Republicans unless they can figure out how to win votes from black and Hispanic voters.

For the Democrats, this is probably the bottom. They have to find more voters or be forced to continue relying on the ethnicity of their voters — and the protections that come with that ethnicity — to protect the seats they still have.

The Republicans have snapped up everything not nailed down by the federal Voting Rights Act.

Redistricting nods to fairness but is actually about power. It allows a Republican Legislature, for instance, to put a dog collar and a short leash on Democratic voters in Austin.

Travis County is one of just a few Texas counties that voted for Barack Obama for president. In the new Congressional maps, five districts reach into the county (none is based there), and only one is likely to produce a Democratic representative.

As it stands, the county would be represented by two people from Austin, one from San Antonio, one from Georgetown (a suburb) and one from Bryan. One of the Austin residents, Lloyd Doggett, an incumbent Democrat, will face tough opposition from San Antonio; the other, Michael McCaul, an incumbent Republican, has a district that runs east to Houston.

It’s safe to say lawmakers weren’t trying to empower the locals. It makes you wonder why the city of Austin rewards them with free airport parking.

Lawmakers don’t have to be fair. If they did, the court would have repaired the damage. It’s just that the law doesn’t protect geography as carefully as it protects minorities.

In Travis County, the minority populations are too scattered to draw a Congressional district protected by the Voting Rights Act. The seat most likely to elect a Democrat stretches into central San Antonio, and it is uncertain whether Mr. Doggett can prevail over someone from San Antonio. His district wasn’t protected.

The remaining Democratic seats in the state result from legal protections for minority groups that happen to vote for Democrats. The Republicans don’t have the legal ability to take more ground; the Democrats don’t have the political juice to win anything not legally protected.

Maps aren’t everything. Using the current maps, the Republicans got 101 seats in the Texas House; using the same maps two years earlier, they got only 76.

But maps mean a lot. The partisan compositions of the Texas Senate and of the state’s Congressional delegation have changed only marginally between redistricting episodes over the last 20 years. If you want change in those places, the most effective strategy is to change the maps.

The redistricting fights have been about the clout of minority voters. Virtually every legal skirmish was over a district that either is, or arguably should be, one in which minority voters have the power to decide the winners.

With few exceptions, the decision to create or protect a minority district was also a decision about whether it would elect a Republican or a Democrat. Talk about walking on eggshells — every conversation or argument about the maps teeters between politics and race.

This year’s elections will clear up the remaining questions. Mr. Doggett is the last Anglo Democrat in the Congressional delegation who wasn’t elected in a minority opportunity district. If he wins re-election, it will be in a Latino district. (Representative Gene Green, Democrat of Houston, also an Anglo, has represented a Latino district for years.)

The only genuine swing district on the Congressional map is District 23, where Representative Francisco Canseco, Republican of San Antonio, will face the winner of a Democratic primary that could include former United States Representative Ciro Rodriguez, whom Mr. Canseco beat in 2010. That’s a test of whether Republicans can hold a minority district.

United States Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Corpus Christi, got a district with a Republican voting history but where a majority of the voters are either black or Latino. That’s another political test tube.

Republicans can’t increase their already stout majorities without winning minority votes or getting rid of the law that protects minority voters. And Democrats have to figure out a way to win in districts drawn by the opposition.

Read more: Ross Ramsey, the executive editor at The Texas Tribune, writes a column for The Tribune article from the NYT

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IS ROMNEY FOR SB1070?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

For Romney, ‘model’ policy on migration isn’t SB 1070

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State Rep. J. M. Lozano said Monday he will switch parties and become a Republican, making him the second South Texas lawmaker to abandon the Democratic Party in what has traditionally been a blue corner of the state.

In a phone interview, Lozano said he plans to formally announce his decision Thursday in Austin and in his home district, which includes Kingsville and stretches along the Gulf Cost to the Rio Grande Valley, near the border with Mexico.

The move further pads the GOP House supermajority, giving the Republicans 102 of 150 seats. But the Legislature is not set to meet again until next year, meaning his switch will matter only if Gov. Rick Perry calls a special session – something Perry says he has no plans to do.

Elected in 2010, Lozano filed for re-election as a Democrat on Nov. 30, just three days after the filing period opened. A second filing period has begun, however, after a legal battle over the Texas redistricting maps delayed the state’s primary until May 29.

Lozano’s district was altered significantly by maps drawn by the Republican-dominated Legislature, but those maps may change again based on the forthcoming decision of a federal court in Washington. The Texas Democratic Party says no other Democrat has filed to challenge Lozano.

Lozano said his decision had less to do with redistricting and more to do with his support of oil and natural gas exploration, his opposition to abortion and other conservative convictions popular with his constituents.

“My job now is to let the Hispanic community know that our values are welcome in the Republican Party,” he said.

Lozano becomes the third Democratic state representative to change parties in less than 18 months. In December 2010, Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland, east of Houston, became a Republican, as did Rep. Aaron Pena, who represents the Rio Grande Valley community of Edinburg.

Pena has since announced he’s not planning to seek re-election this year, however, after he said the redrawn voting maps made it impossible for a Republican to win in his district.

South Texas has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold, but Lozano said the state party leadership ignored the issues most important to him. The owner of a trio of chicken wing franchises, Lozano was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen at 6.

He said he was persuaded to change parities after a conversation this week with George P. Bush, the founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas political action committee. He is also the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush.

“We talked about everything, our lives and how there’s this misconception out there that the Republican Party is not welcome to Hispanics,” Lozano said.

The Texas Democratic Party called Lozano’s decision “unprincipled and cowardly.”

“Just 15 months ago, Lozano was elected to office as a Democrat. The instant things got tough, Lozano jumped ship and joined a party that has betrayed his constituents,” Chairman Boyd Richie said in a statement. “He’s proven he has no core and stands for nothing but his quest to grab and hold power.”

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