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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NALEO WILL ENLIST LATINAS TO BOOST VOTER TURNOUT

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

NALEO researchers are redirecting their aim to improve Hispanic voter turnout, pointing efforts at the most influential target inside Latino households: the women.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials is using new findings from recently gathered focus groups to retool its campaign for the Hispanic vote, after participants in Houston revealed that a nudge from wives and mothers could be the key.

“We will develop a strategy where we speak to Latinas,” said Arturo Vargas, longtime executive director for NALEO. “There’s something there that we need to tap into to get our Hispanic mother and wife and sister to get their husbands and brothers and sons to vote.”

The groups — eligible-but-nonregistered and registered-but-not-voting Hispanics — were assembled in December to determine if they were tuned in to the political issues and candidates of the day, Vargas explained.

Participants showed that they closely follow platform issues, and demonstrated awareness but no engagement.

Asked who among them planned to vote in the 2012 elections, none raised a hand. Who might influence them to vote? Participants said they would listen to their wives and mothers.

“What do we have to do to get this great unengaged segment of our community to care?” Vargas said. He chuckled, “If it’s nagging, so be it.”

NALEO’s plan for a Latina-centric strategy is a change from when longtime community organizer Rosie Castro began voter registration efforts in San Antonio in the late 1960s.

Fifty years later, the mission — to empower Latino voters — remains difficult but has made major advances, Castro said.

“When I was young and doing voter registration we often would go to a house in the Latino community and the wife would say: ‘I really can’t register to vote right now. I have to ask my husband.’ It’s incredible to me how much that has changed,” said Castro, mother of Mayor Julián Castro and state Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Joaquin Castro said his mom has emphasized the importance of voting since he was a child. “People in government won’t listen to you if you don’t vote,” she would tell the twins.

“She taught us to believe that through public service you can help create opportunities in people’s lives,” he said.

He said his mother “had all the influence in the world, not only on why I vote, but also why I entered public service.”

NALEO’s new strategy is a smart one, he said. Women “are often the glue” in growing families.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/To-boost-Latino-turnout-group-will-enlist-Latinas-3415281.php#ixzz1pXnkOO42

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WAS NANCY PELOSI IN TEXAS?

THE HISPANIC BLOG BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center with microphone, jestures to Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, from the left, and is also joined by congressional candidate Joaquin Castro, state senator Leticia Van de Putte, Mayor Julian Castro at a breakfast rally for Joaquin at Avenida Guadalupe’s El Progreso Hall, Saturday, February 18, 2012 in San Antonio. Photo: J. Michael Short , SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS-NEWS / THE SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

PELOSI STUMPS FOR JOAQUIN CASTRO

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi whipped up a crowd of party faithful Saturday morning on the city’s West Side, stumping for state Rep. Joaquín Castro, who is running to replace Congressman Charlie Gonzalez. Gonzalez is retiring at the end of his term after 14 years in Washington, D.C. Pelosi praised Gonzalez and his father, the iconic Henry B. Gonzalez, whom she served alongside as a newly elected congresswoman on the House banking committee. The senior Gonzalez “stood up for the consumers of America on that banking committee,” she said to raucous applause from the 200 or so who turned out for the invitation-only breakfast at Progresso, across the street from the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. It was the first stop for Pelosi, who will spend part of the weeklong House recess in South Texas.

She heads next to Laredo for the annual Washington’s Birthday celebration there. On Monday, she’ll speak at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M, at the invitation of the 41st president. On Friday, Pelosi was one of 293 House members who voted to extend the payroll tax cut to 160 million American workers. The extension was not offset by spending cuts, which Republicans had earlier insisted on. The successful vote was widely seen a coup for Democrats, as well as President Barack Obama‘s re-election bid.

Pelosi also came out swinging earlier in the week after a House panel on religious liberty and birth control included no women. The two who testified at a later hearing were both critical of the administration’s birth control mandate. Capitalizing on widespread outrage, Pelosi urged Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supporters to sign a petition “to demand that women be allowed at the table when discussing women’s health issues.” The DCCC hoped to get 50,000 signatures before Congress left town Friday; it got almost twice that, according to the Huffington Post. But Pelosi stuck to local themes at Saturday’s event, telling the crowd she was personally as well as politically glad to be in South Texas.

“The Hispanic community in particular has made America more American,” she said to rapturous applause.

She recalled working 30 years ago in California with another icon of the Hispanic civil rights movement, Willie Velasquez, founder of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and warned the crowd not to be complacent this election.

“We have to have a big turnout,” she said, so that when Castro steps foot on the floor of the House, he does so with overwhelming support.

Charlie Gonzalez, who got his own standing ovation, said he’d been “hanging around” with Castro over the past few weeks, both here and in Washington.

“Of course I’m endorsing him,” he said. “And when you support Joaquin Castro, you support Nancy Pelosi returning as speaker of the House.”

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Pelosi-stumps-for-Castro-3341552.php#ixzz1mo7DLIYV

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