FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 10, 2008
Francisco Lopez (503) 269-5694
Erik Sorensen (503) 488-0263
Nationwide, the impact of the Latino Vote was significant. According to state exit polls, over two thirds of Latino voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama, providing him with an important edge over John McCain, particularly in swing states.
Latino participation in this year’s election was turbo charged in large part by the issue of immigration and civil rights. And although the economy was the primary driving force among most voters, the issue of immigration was a significant influence of Latino voters in choosing Senator Obama and his message of change.
“The change that Latinos are seeking is a different direction from the inactivity and complacency on the issues affecting their lives like immigration, education, health care, jobs and the Iraq War.” said Francisco Lopez, Statewide Coordinator of CAUSA. “They want a different direction. One away from the hostility and bigotry towards Immigrants that is so entrenched in the Republican Party.”
One clear revelation from last Tuesday’s results was that anti-immigrant forces fared poorly nationwide. Americans by a large majority rejected their politics of scapegoating, bigotry and hatred. The rejection of their platform last Tuesday night added to their failed attempt earlier this year to get an anti-immigrant candidate nominated to the Republican Presidential ticket. The scathing defeat of their candidates and citizen sponsored measures hostile to Latinos and Immigrants shows that Americans want a different direction for this country.
In Colorado, incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave, a fierce outspoken critic of immigration, was defeated by Betsy Markey by a double digit majority. In Pennsylvania, Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta, a long-time ally of the anti-immigrant movement, failed to unseat Representative Paul Kanjorski. In South Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Dole was defeated handily by Kay Hagan. Dole gained a reputation of being obstacle to Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Although it is too early to know the exact role that Latino voters played in defeating anti-immigrant candidates and measure, one thing is for certain, their message of hate was rejected by the majority of Americans.
In Oregon, Latinos are expected to have had a considerable impact on local races. The exact influence of the Latino Vote won’t be known for several months, however national trends suggest that of Oregon’s 70,000 registered Latino voters, over 70% likely cast ballots. Organizing and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts within the state is expected to have pushed Latino Voter participation up considerably from years past.
Last month, voter’s guides were mailed to over 7,500 Latino voters in five Oregon cities including Woodburn, Gervais, Salem, Keizer, and Independence. These five cities contain the core base of Latinos that make up the membership of CAUSA, PCUN (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United) and Voz Hispana Causa Chavista. Of the 7,500 Latinos receiving voters’ guides, 3,500 were new voters that had been registered this year. With the explosion of new Latino Voters in Oregon, there is no doubt that Latinos were poised to have a significant impact on Oregon’s election.
Many organizations within the Latino community partnered with the broad coalition of community organizations and education advocates under the banner of Parents and Teachers Know Better to defeat Measure 58. The Measure would have hindered the ability of their children to learn and grasp the English language, thereby having a detrimental impact on their future. Oregonians defeated the measure by a 56% to 44% margin sending the message to Bill Sizemore and his allies that decisions about their children's education should be made by the people closest to the classroom.
Although the response to two anti-immigrant ballot measures 5-190 and 5-191 in Columbia County was mixed, the use of anti-immigrant policies by the far right to drive a wedge into rural and working class communities fell short with one passing and one going down in defeat. Passage of Measure 5-190 was a reminder that there is a long way to go in winning people's hearts and minds for immigrant justice.
In statewide congressional races, candidates who either had anti-immigrant stances and/or stood as obstacles to fair and just immigration reform were also defeated. In Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, Republican Mike Erickson lost to Democrat Kurt Schrader. For the U.S. Senate, Jeff Merkley defeated incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith. Smith lost the support of Latinos after pledging to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform and then voting against it last year. Oregon Senator elect Merkley will now join Senator Ron Wyden, a supporter of Fair and Just Immigration Reform, in Washington D.C. in January.
“Given the significant impact of the Latino vote on this election," Lopez said. "It is crucial for Democrats to understand that the one time notion that Latinos don’t swing elections has now been proven false. Latino voters are expecting President Elect Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress to follow through with their promises and pass fair and just immigration reform.”
The final analysis shows that the significant nationwide turnout of Latino voters in this election was not by accident. It was the product of a large organized effort to make the universal slogan of “Today we March, Tomorrow we Vote” meaningful. Last Tuesday’s election results proved that Latinos are an important voting block and can no longer be taken for granted by either political party.
In the coming year, the new Congress is expected to take up issues such as Fair and Just Immigration Reform, the DREAM Act, AGJOBS and a halt to raids that destroy families.