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CA Candidates Go After Latino Votes

La Opinión, News Report, Pilar Marrero, Translated by Elena Kadvany and Elena Shore

 Meg Whitman wants to reverse a 16-year trend in which no Republican candidate for governor of California has gotten more than 20 percent of the Latino vote.

But in order to do this there is a matter that needs to be settled: for Latino voters, the Republican brand is tied to an anti-immigrant image.

Whitman took various positions on the issue during the Republican primary. When her opponent Steve Poizner started campaigning harshly against immigrants, Whitman toughened her stance to appeal to the Republican base.

She said she opposed Proposition 187, even though she didn’t vote in 1994, when the initiative was on the ballot—or any year before that—in the California elections. She hired Pete Wilson as a consultant, but distanced herself from some of his positions. She took out TV ads saying “illegal is illegal” and saying that there was no possibility that she would support “amnesty.” She opposes the Arizona law SB1070, but favors the deportation of undocumented California college students.

“Meg Whitman was the first candidate to express her opposition of the Arizona law…in reality, her position and that of Democrat Jerry Brown are not too different. Both oppose sanctuary cities and driver’s licenses for undocumented people,” said Hector Barajas, Whitman’s spokesman.

Local Republican consultants think that Whitman has a chance with Latino voters, provided she surrounds herself with people who can counteract the party’s anti-immigrant image. “I believe that [Republican Lieutenant Governor] Abel Maldonado would be key in Whitman’s campaign. It’s too bad they don’t know each other very well, but I believe that he would help her a lot with Latinos and communicating in Spanish,” said Alan Hoffenblum, editor of the California Target Book.

“In reality, the campaign issues will be jobs and the economy,” added the Republican consultant. “Immigration will not be one of the priority issues.”

But Democrats won’t let voters easily forget what she said during the primary, even though observers say Democrats don’t want to take the issue on either, by “taking a stand far to the left of ordinary Californians.”

California has always been relatively conservative on the issue of illegal immigration, voting in favor of Prop. 187 and, in recent polls, favoring the Arizona law. It’s a different story for Latino voters.

“[Democratic candidate] Jerry Brown is not going to antagonize Latino voters, but he isn’t going to go completely to the left on this issue either,” said Republican consultant David Johnson, who isn’t involved in this race but was an advisor to Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996.

As California’s Attorney General, Brown has taken positions such as opposing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and supporting the Secure Communities program. But the day after the primary election, in response to a question from La Opinión, he reaffirmed his support for immigration reform. 

“We have to do something for the 12 million people who are here working. I favor a comprehensive reform,” said Brown in his post-election press conference last week.



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