Cruz May Be First Hispanic President, but Rejects the Label

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Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz: My Story Resonates With Hispanics A day after he spoke to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Texas Senator and 2016 Republican candidate Ted Cruz talks immigration and his Cuban heritage. Bloomberg
MarcoRubio
Campaigning in the critically important primary state of South Carolina, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is making his closing arguments to Mount Pleasant voters. (Feb. 17) AP

After his big win in the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz is one step closer to becoming the first Hispanic president in U.S. history. But that’s not how he wants to be known.

Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, admits that his Spanish-speaking skills are “lousy.” He offers up only the occasional “muchisimas gracias” on the campaign trail.

His positions on immigration, including ending birthright citizenship and building a border wall, put him at odds with many Hispanic voters and advocacy groups. They accuse him of ignoring his heritage and issues that matter to many Latinos.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio shares some of the same conservative positions on immigration, some of which antagonize the Hispanic community — an ever-growing and increasingly powerful demographic in American elections.

For both of the young senators, their heritage has not defined their supporter base or their political philosophies. But Cruz in particular has risked alienating many Hispanics by surrounding himself with conservatives such as Iowa Rep. Steve King, Cruz’s national campaign co-chairman, who has compared immigrants living in the country illegally to drug mules and livestock.

In appealing to conservatives in mostly white Iowa and New Hampshire, it wasn’t necessary for Cruz or Rubio to appeal directly to Hispanic voters. But that could change quickly in Nevada on Feb. 23, where Latinos make up 28 percent of the population, although they made up only 5 percent of Republican voters in the 2012 caucuses.

Cruz’s top strategist, Jason Johnson, says the Texas senator can win the general election by capturing just 30 percent of Hispanics — not much more than the 27 percent Mitt Romney got in his failed 2012 White House bid. Instead of luring more Hispanics to his side, Cruz is counting on bringing out millions of mostly white evangelical Christians and working class voters who sat out the past two elections.

“In the Democratic Party, you’re the Hispanic guy, you’re the African-American guy, you’re whatever your little bloc is, you’re pigeonholed and simply a quota representative,” Cruz told The Associated Press in a November interview. “One of the reasons I’m a Republican is because we treat people as individuals. … When I ran for Senate in Texas I didn’t run as: ‘Vote for the Hispanic guy.”

Cruz said he ran for the Senate as the strongest conservative and “that’s exactly how I’m running for president.”

As a teenager in Cuba, his father Rafael Cruz joined an uprising against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, during which time he was arrested and beaten. In 1957 — two years before Fidel Castro took power — the elder Cruz fled Cuba for the U.S., a story that Cruz often recounts on the campaign trail.

He told AP that nothing sums up why he ran for office more than his father’s journey and fulfillment of the American dream.

“Being the son of an immigrant who has fled oppression makes you appreciate how precious and fragile our freedom is, and is integral to who I am,” Cruz said. “But I think a great many of Hispanics in this country are tired of being stereotyped or taken for granted by the Democratic Party.”

Cruz was born Rafael Edward Cruz in 1970. He spoke no Spanish at home and his parents spoke only English when around him.

Cruz described in his 2015 autobiography “A Time for Truth” how as a child he was known by the nickname Felito.

“The problem with that name was that it seemed to rhyme with every major corn chip on the market,” Cruz wrote. “Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos — a fact that other young children were quite happy to point out.”

Cruz changed his name to Ted when he was 13 — a move that infuriated his father. For about two years, his father, who now travels the country campaigning for him, refused to call him Ted.

By distancing himself from his cultural heritage, he’s opening himself to criticism from the other Cuban-American in the race. Rubio and Cruz clashed over their Spanish-speaking skills in last weekend’s GOP debate, with the fluent Rubio criticizing Cruz for not speaking Spanish. Cruz lashed back in heavily accented Spanish, a rare display of his limited knowledge of the language.

Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said Cruz “doesn’t fundamentally understand the Latino community.” The Washington-based group of national conservative and Republican leaders has criticized both Cruz and Donald Trump for their opposition to legalizing people who are in the county illegally.

Cruz and Rubio “have turned their back on our community” and are catering to the anti-immigrant fringe of the Republican Party, said Dolores Huerta, a longtime civil rights activist.

“They really don’t share the values of the Latino community even though they happen to be Latinos themselves,” Huerta said. “We have to vote our values and for the people who are standing up for us. … We can’t vote for somebody just because they happen to be of Latino descent.”

Your Editor Opines: Come’n Ted, tell them it’s a Primary tactic. For the election, you’ll learn Spanish.

The Door-To-Door Grind to Lift Latino Voter Turnout

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In Nevada, one group is working toward a singular goal that’s separate from both presidential candidates.

door-to-doorBy David Catanese

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In her quest to boost the population of Latino voters, Arely Chaparro has ventured down seedy crime-plagued streets with a taser in her satchel, withstood doors slamming in her face and even encountered open drug use.

“I worked those apartments last election,” Chaparro gestures as she walks a neighborhood about 10 miles east of the Las Vegas strip that abuts an interstate highway. “It was really bad. There were people shooting heroin outside like it was normal.”

On this sun-baked afternoon just two days ahead of the start of Nevada’s early voting season, the recurring barrier to reaching her prospects is the chain-linked fence — usually affixed with a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign — which is a common amenity in this racially-mixed enclave of lower-income residences.

“I usually don’t go into gates, because most of the time they have dogs,” she says. “I was chased by a dog the other day.”

The 25-year-old Chaparro is working the doors as a part-time employee for Mi Familia Vota, one of myriad organizations dedicated to motivating Hispanic voters to exercise their right to vote this election year.

Nonetheless, their field workers do not inquire about who their targets are inclined to vote for. They do not recommend or instruct them how to vote. Their goal remains singularly focused: To simply increase the number of Hispanics that vote.

“Campaigns tend to target high propensity Latino voters, or high propensity voters. That is not our job,” says Ben Monterroso, Vota’s executive director. “Our job is to target low propensity Latino voters because that is how we grow the electorate. The same people continue voting, we gonna get the same results.”

Mi Familia Vota originated in California following the 1994 passage of Proposition 187, an initiative aimed to deny undocumented workers public benefits. It now operates around-the-year in six states and 14 cities.

“People like to say, California changed,” Monterroso says. “No, no, no. We changed California.”

Chaparro, who came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico with her family but was granted legal status through President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty law, is one of 70 current staffers Vota has in the Las Vegas area attempting to prod and nudge more Latinos to the ballot box.

As she moves from house to house, she says she is noticing a greater number of Hispanics who are not only interested in the election, but have changed their party registration to independent.

“I think this election it’s going to be more. It’s obvious, ya know?,” she says of the expected Latino turnout. But she is reticent about ascribing the cause.

“I don’t want to get into the parties but . . . when he first started attacking people,” she explains before drifting off without ever completing her thought or mentioning Donald Trump‘s name.

Her instincts appear to bear out in the statistics. While both active Democratic and Republican Party registration has fallen slightly in the Silver State from 2012, the number of eligible independent or nonpartisan voters has risen 3 percentage points.

Overall, Nevada’s total voter registration is up 16 percent from 2012 and Vota can take credit for 16,000 new Hispanic registrants since the beginning of the year. Four years ago, Hispanics made up 18 percent of the vote in Nevada, tying with Arizona for the nation’s second largest Latino vote share behind New Mexico.

This year, Vota wants to see Latinos comprise a quarter of Nevada’s vote, helping lift their national slice of the electorate to at least 13 percent, which would amount to about 13 million Hispanics.

National polling shows Hillary Clinton leading Trump among Hispanics by a yawning margin of more than 3-to-1 and Monterroso puts it plainly, “We don’t ask, but people offer the reason they are registering is because they want to vote against Donald Trump.”

While they are cautiously confident about reaching their numerical objectives, the task remains an hour-by-hour grind with considerable obstacles.

On this particular day, Chaparro is about to move on from one of the home’s with a gate and seemingly friendly dog roaming the front yard when Luis Urbina pulls up along the curb after finishing a shift at one of his three part-time jobs.

The 28-year-old Urbina was originally registered to vote by Mi Familia Vota and now Chaparro is back to make sure he follows through.

“Are you going to be voting?,” she asks.

“Ahhhh. Like right now?,” he replies.

No, she tells him, explaining that the early voting period commences during the coming weekend. She references a flier that promotes a festival inside a mall — “Celebrando El Voto” — that will include live music, games for children, food from Tacos El Gordo and of course, early voting ballots.

“Well, I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to decide. Because I want a good country, ya know? United States is the best place to live, ya know, but there’s a lot of people that we don’t trust. It’s fine, I’ll vote but I don’t even know who’s the best of the best,” Urbina says skeptically about the candidates.

“The important thing is that you go out and vote,” Chaparro instructs affably but firmly.

“Yeah, of course, I know,” he replies. “The tacos are going to be free? . . . There going be a trampoline thing and all that stuff?”

“They’re going to have a costume contest for kids,” Chaparro says, with a lift in her voice.

After handing him the flier that blares “Vote Temprano Todo el Dia! Sabado, 22 de Octubre”, which translates to “Vote Early All Day, Saturday, October 22,” Chaparro walks away feeling hopeful about Urbino.

Others responses are less heartening.

At one door, two young newly registered women answer.

But when Chaparro asks if they are planning to vote, only one responds affirmatively. The other shakes her head “No” and struggles to reply to a query about the issues most important to her.

“She’s not interested. She’s not keeping up,” Chaparro says later.

On the wall back at Vota’s headquarters, a sign notes the daily pledge card goal for each canvasser is a meager five voters per day.

There are a manifold of reasons fewer than half of the 27 million eligible Hispanics turn out to vote. Some of them, like apathy, are not dissimilar to the rest of the general population that sits out elections.

But Chaparro explains that convincing Latinos to register in the first place is always the more challenging hurdle because many fear unintended consequences: That the form will trigger a warrant for a petty offense like an unpaid parking or speeding ticket, or somehow alert authorities to a family member or friend who is an undocumented worker.

It’s Chaparro’s job to ease those unfounded but understandable worries, to explain why participation in the process is so vital to their families’ future and to leverage the power of personal persuasion in each interaction.

“When you convince someone to vote, that’s just like an accomplishment, you know? You feel good about yourself,” she says, heading to another door with a mini-Ipad in one hand and an iced Starbucks drink in the other. “You’re making a change. One by one, it’s going to be a big change.”

David Catanese is senior politics writer for U.S. News & World Report

Your Editor Reflects Again: These are the people that help make our country great. 

AZTECA AMERICA LAUNCHES BI-CITIZENSHIP CAMPAIGN

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AZTECA AMERICA LAUNCHES BI-CITIZENSHIP CAMPAIGN

“¡Protégete!…¡Ciudadanía Ya!” Urges Latinos in  U.S. to Apply for Citizenship

In keeping with its mission, Azteca America, a Grupo Salinas company, has launched “¡Protégete!…¡Ciudadanía Ya!” an unprecedented bi-national civic initiative aimed at urging Latino U.S. residents to apply for citizenship. This first phase of the campaign, which kicked off April 4, lays the groundwork for ultimately getting U.S. Latinos to vote in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election.

“The pathway to U.S. citizenship reinforces the notion that as citizens, Latinos can have a direct impact on the key issues that affect their daily lives,” said Luis Echarte, Chairman of Fundación Azteca America. “Through ‘¡Protégete!…¡Ciudadanía Ya!’ we are collectively raising awareness about the benefits of being civically active to ultimately ensure a better quality of life for one’s family.”

On the digital front, information on “¡Protégete!…¡Ciudadanía Ya!” will be prominently featured on us.azteca.com/elections2016 that will provide detailed facts about elections, voting and citizenship. The site also will include a user’s guide to citizenship that provides details on eligibility and requirements. The campaign will be promoted across social media channels including Twitter (@AztecaUS) and Facebook (Azteca US).

“Now more than ever, the power and influence of Latinos plays a pivotal role in ensuring the future of the United States,” said Manuel Abud, President of, Azteca America. “As a media company and corporate citizen based in the U.S., powered by a media conglomerate in Mexico, it is our responsibility to inform and educate our audiences on both sides of the border about the crucial role citizenship plays in their lives and the lives of loved ones living in this country. Civic engagement is critically important to ensuring their voices be heard on important issues such as education, immigration and healthcare.”

Thomas Perez Elected the First Latino Leader of Democratic Party. So What?

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By David Weigel. Washington Post

Former labor secretary Thomas Perez was elected the first Latino chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, narrowly defeating Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) at the end of a contentious battle over the fate of the beleaguered party in the age of President Trump.

Perez’s victory concluded the first contested race for the DNC leadership since 1985, a contest the party had extended by a month to allow more debate. It put in place the Democratic leadership that will navigate thousands of state and local elections — where the party hopes to reverse the losses of the past six years — and a 2020 presidential race that could divide the party again.

Ellison’s defeat was a blow to the party’s liberal wing, personified by activists, labor leaders and organizers, many of whom had supported the presidential bid of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and had come to Atlanta to cheer Ellison on. Many of them warned that by picking Perez, the party was alienating the growing “resistance” that has organized against Trump.

The race was close enough that it required a second round of balloting, with Perez winning 235 of 435 votes cast. With tensions still high as the result was announced, nine Ellison supporters chanted “Party for the people, not big money!” and stormed out of the room.

“Someday, they’re going to study this era of American history,” Perez said after his win. “They’re going to ask the question of all of us: Where were you in 2017 when we had the worst president in the history of the United States? We will be able to say that the Democratic Party led the resistance and made sure this was a one-term president.”

Onstage, Perez gave Ellison the symbolic role of deputy party chair, and the Minnesota congressman gave a short speech asking his supporters to stay with the party and avoid recriminations.

“We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” Ellison said.

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, tweeted her support for both ­Perez and Ellison as representatives of a “unified party,” while former president Barack Obama congratulated “my friend” Perez in a statement.

“I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much,” Obama said.

Sanders, who had supported Ellison, said in a statement that it was “imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before.”

Trump, in classic fashion, responded to the election by simultaneously congratulating and belittling Perez in a tweet: “I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican Party!”

The vote itself was tense. On Friday night, Democrats gathered at a downtown hotel here in Atlanta to meet, drink and lobby for votes, and the Ellison campaign — along with allies of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a third candidate — battled rumors that Perez might already have locked up the votes he needed.

But by Saturday morning, it was clear that the race was up for grabs. Buttigieg used his nomination speech to quit the race, endorsing no candidate. As most of the 439 DNC members present cast their votes — eight eligible members did not attend — several DNC members got a text from the Ellison camp saying the congressman was “grateful to have the support of Mayor Buttigieg,” an endorsement that the mayor denied.

In the first round of balloting, Perez won 213.5 votes to 200 for Ellison, 12 for Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, 0.5 for Democratic strategist Jehmu Greene and one for Buttigieg in the first round of balloting. Greene endorsed Perez, while two fringe candidates who had won no votes backed Ellison. Members who are abroad get half a vote.

Perez’s victory did not represent a Democratic shift to the right. On key issues, Perez’s platform mostly resembled Ellison’s. Perez promised to refocus on small donors and online fundraising; Ellison set a goal for “low-dollar contributions from everyday Americans [to] account for 33 percent of revenue.” Ellison called for an “Innovation Hub” in Silicon Valley; Perez promoted DNC fellowships to “encourage developers, programmers, data scientists, [and] engineers.”

While Perez and Ellison praised each other personally, the race was defined for outsiders by Sanders’s support of the Minnesota lawmaker. Ellison was one of the few members of Congress who had backed Sanders for president. He billed himself as the “unity candidate” who would keep Sanders’s restive supporters in the party while embracing those who had backed Clinton.

In the first weeks after Ellison declared his candidacy, the strategy seemed to be working, despite some hiccups. Labor unions that had endorsed Clinton, such as the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, got behind Ellison.

Howard Dean, the most successful DNC chair in modern party history, dropped his plans to run again when Ellison said he would resign from Congress if elected to the full-time job. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had frequently clashed with Dean over strategy and investments, endorsed Ellison and defended the first Muslim member of Congress against charges of anti-Semitism.

But veterans of the Obama administration, where Perez had been a popular liberal force, encouraged the former labor secretary to run — and starting Dec. 15, he did. In progressive media, the race was frequently covered as a clash between “the establishment” and the “revolution” that had been proved right by the 2016 election.

That was not how most DNC members chose to see it. In public forums, including the final one broadcast on CNN, Ellison and Perez declined to criticize each other. While progressive media outlets accused Perez of protecting the party’s consultant class, DNC members who broke for Perez said that he had convinced them that he knew what state parties needed.

“Tom seemed to have a better handle on the job,” said Kathy Sullivan, a former chair of New Hampshire’s Democratic Party, who endorsed Perez after current New Hampshire state chair Ray Buckley quit the race.

Perez was also helped by a string of endorsements from Obama administration veterans — although, as Ellison backers noticed, he did not win any high-profile supporters of Sanders’s to compete with Ellison’s endorsements from Clintonites. The Feb. 1 endorsement of Perez by former vice president Joe Biden, one of the party’s most beloved figures, prompted Sanders to criticize Perez for the first time.

“Do we stay with a failed status-quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party?” Sanders asked in a statement after Biden’s endorsement. “I say we go forward and create a grassroots party which speaks for working people and is prepared to stand up to the top one percent.”

Most of the DNC’s membership — just 39 of whom had backed Sanders for president in 2016 — did not view the contest as a stark ideological clash. Sanders supporters, including Ellison, had largely succeeded in moving the party’s platform to the left. In interviews, some acknowledged that there would be walkouts by Sanders die-hards in their states, but they argued that the daily outrages around Trump might bring them back into the process.

That confidence was on display Saturday before the vote for chairman. DNC members debated whether to strike language from California’s Christine Pelosi, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, that would have restored a ban on corporate donations to the DNC. The prohibition was quietly rolled back during the controversial tenure of the previous elected DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

“This resolution has nothing to do with nonprofit organizations,” said Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communications Workers of America who backed Sanders in 2016. “This is to send a message, loud and clear, that the DNC itself — not candidates, not state parties — will restore the ban that President Obama put into effect.”

When the language was struck, a few of the activists who had come to cheer Ellison — including members of National Nurses United, Progressive Democrats of America and Democratic Socialists of America — started a brief chant.

Your Editor Repeats: So what?

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