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Which CA Candidates Are Best For Latinos?

BY  El Tecolote, News Analysis, La Raza Studies program, San Francisco State University



Editors' Note: One in three Californians is Latino but among California’s voters, only one in five is Latino. Why isn’t the Latino political voice as strong as our numbers? The simple answer is that large numbers of Latinos are either too young to vote or cannot vote because of citizenship status. Since so many Latinos cannot vote, those who are eligible have a great responsibility to represent the entire Latino community and vote for politicians and policies that are responsive to Latino needs. 

SAN FRANCISCO - It’s not easy to keep up with information about candidates and issues on the November 2 ballot. With this challenge in mind, students in the Raza Politics course in the Department of Raza Studies at San Francisco State University researched the frontrunner candidates in five statewide races. Below is a summary of each candidate and an evaluation of how responsive she or he has been to Latino political interests. Each candidate was graded on the issues important to Latinos and then given an overall grade that takes into consideration their performance and responsiveness to Latinos and to the Latino community. 


Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown received an overall grade of a B because his support of the Latino community has been apparent throughout his career. 

Brown received a B- on immigration because he supports immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship as well as the Dream Act. 

He received a B for employment issues concerning Latinos because in 1980, he signed a groundbreaking law (SB 1874) that requires employers to provide information to workers on toxic substances produced or handled in their workplace, including pesticides and fertilizers. As Attorney General, Brown took legal action against a number of companies that exploit and abuse their workers and violate California’s labor laws. As Governor, Brown enacted laws to protect workers, and signed into law the Agricultural Relations Act, giving farm workers the right to organize. 

Brown’s policies towards education earn him a B+ because he has increased Cal-Grant awards by 50 percent, which benefits our low-income Latino communities. Brown plans to work with the State Board of Education to provide support to English learners and provide after school and summer programs to increase English learning. Brown supports in-state tuition for qualified high school students regardless of their residency status.

Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman received the very low overall grade of D- because on the whole, her policy preferences would be damaging to Latinos. 

Whitman received an F in the area of immigrant rights because she opposes social services that would benefit Latino communities. Whitman is against any pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and she plans to militarize the border. She openly opposes the DREAM ACT, which would allow US high school graduates who are undocumented to become legal residents after spending two years in college or the military. She also wants to eliminate sanctuary cities (such as San Francisco) from protecting undocumented immigrants from federal immigration laws and does not want to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. 

We decided to give Whitman a D for employment concerning Latinos because she supports an established system that allows employers to verify the immigration status of workers (e-verification system). Whitman also supports conducting workplace inspections modeled after drug seizure raids of businesses suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants. 

For education Whitman receives a D- because she supports Proposition 227, which banned bilingual education in CA. Whitman also promises to ban undocumented students from colleges and universities and not allow further admission to any state-funded institution.


Abel Maldonado

Maldonado received an overall grade of D for discouraging the opportunities of immigrants, Latina/o youth and children throughout his past six years as a California senator. 

He supported Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that prohibits illegal immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services in California. 

He also voted in favor of three ballot initiatives against illegal immigration, affirmative action and bilingual education. He voted against propositions that support struggling youth (Safe Place to Learn Act, Student Civil Rights Act, Youth Bill of Rights for Incarcerated Youth, Protection for Teen Age Pregnancy Programs, and many that concern LGBTQ youth). 

Moreover, he supported the Education Law Amendment to expand the gap between wealthy schools/parents and the poor. He is partly responsible for the $8.6 billion budget cut to public education last year.

Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom receives an overall grade of B because while he is responsive to Latinos, his long-term political plans seem to be contradictory with his short-term policies. 

Recently, he launched Kindergarten to College (K2C), the first universal children’s saving account program in the nation, designed to send all children to college. He also supports an Anti-Truancy Program, which offers local supports for youth to stay in schools. He enthusiastically supports ending furloughs and cuts for faculty and workers in public education, as well as providing health care for K-12 students.

He advocates for illegal immigrants and promises safe access to city services such as medical care and criminal reports regardless of residential status. Despite this record of Latino responsiveness, Newsom’s perspective is not perfect since the Sit and Lie Ordinance marginalizes underprivileged groups, including Latina/os and immigrants.


Barbara Boxer

Boxer’s overall grade for this election was an A-. 

She started her career in public service on the local level, then moved her way up the political ladder until 1982 when she was elected to the House of Representatives to represent the Bay Area, which she did for over 10 years. This will be her fourth term in office as a Senator and representative of California.

Boxer has a track record of job creation through clean energy, transportation, infrastructure, and supportive legislation for lending to small businesses. She has fought to increase the minimum wage, cut taxes for the underprivileged, and help families afford child care. She has a long track record of action and results when it comes to legislation that directly affects the Latino community and Latino economic well-being. This is why we chose to give her an A- for her economic policies. 

Boxer earned an A in education policy for consistently signing legislation to support public schools, minorities in higher education, and provide tax relief to lower-income families for college. Boxer believes that all Americans should be covered for health insurance and that healthcare should be affordable for all. She calls for more oversight and helped to draft the Patient’s Bill of Rights. 

For her extensive health care policies and legislation, which largely help minority groups and Latinos, we gave her an A. One of her more striking attributes, Boxer has long recognized the impact and importance of immigration on our culture and economy. She supports a pathway to full citizenship for those already here and she believes in comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act, which provides citizenship for children of immigrants either through higher education or military service.

For her support of immigration reform we gave her a B+. Almost in complete contrast to her opponents on environmental policy, Boxer has developed clean-energy jobs, passed successful carbon reduction legislation, believes that polluters should pay for their cleanup, not the taxpayers, and strongly opposes drilling off the California coast. She receives her best grade here with an A+. Barbara Boxer’s concerns are tied into the Latino community and overall Latino wellbeing.

Carly Fiorina

Fiorina’s overall grade for this election was a D.

Her experience stems from a background in business. She was the former CEO and Chairman of Hewlett-Packard for six years. During that time she doubled the company’s revenue from $44 billion to $88 billion. If elected, this will be her first term as a political representative.

While Carly Fiorina has worked in business for a long time, she has little planned in the way of specifics to help jump-start California’s job market. She pays a lot of lip service to the people she thinks will listen, but the content just isn’t there. This is why we chose to give her a D for her economic policies. 

In regards to education, Fiorina believes that we should create accountability with schools and acknowledges that there are “some” problems, though she lacks solutions. We gave her a C-. 

Fiorina, like many with a conservative agenda, has jumped on the bandwagon of her political party and followed the rhetoric to the letter. She wants to repeal the current health care reform legislation and then pass her own health care reform legislation but it looks remarkably like the one already signed into law. Fiorina is big on private business, with little or no oversight. From a Latino perspective, this leaves the underprivileged and lower-income groups vulnerable to financial hardship. As a result, she’s earned a D-. 

On immigration Fiorina’s platform is to secure the borders and stop the influx of “illegals” into the country. While she states that she wants to develop new temporary worker programs, she targets these at highly-skilled jobs, leaving service workers in the cold. For these reasons, we gave her a grade of C on immigration. 

On environmental policy she shows indifference and irresponsibility. She supports offshore drilling in California, opposes Cap and Trade laws, which call for a mandatory cap on emissions, and strongly supports Prop. 23, the Global Warming Law on the ballot this year. Fiorina received her worst grade of an F for the environment. She is not the candidate for America, for California, and most importantly, she is the worst candidate for the Latino community.


Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is consistently responsive to Latino issues so she receives an A for her overall grade. 

Harris’ record shows that she will crack down on criminal activity. She takes a humanitarian approach towards youth, which is a very large proportion of the Latino community.

She is supportive of health care reform and will not waste California's scarce resources to fight against reform. She is against the “Arizona Law” SB1070 that allows for racial profiling by police officers. She supports a judge’s ruling that Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional and refuses to challenge his ruling.

Steve Cooley

Steve Cooley receives an overall grade of a D+ due to his lack of attention to important Latino issues.

Cooley proves to be tough on criminal prosecution, yet does not show interest in helping youth, which is a large proportion of the Latino population. He says he does not support health care reform and WILL use California’s limited resources to join the “Southern Attorney Generals” in suing the national government to undo this reform. 

If the “Arizona Law” SB1070, which allows for racial profiling by police officers, were to be passed in California, Cooley has made it clear that he wouldsupport it. He has made it very clear that he supports Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriages, and will do all he can to uphold Prop 8.


(The Superintendent of Public Instruction manages the Department of Education, enforces state education laws, provides educational policy and serves as the state’s chief spokesperson for public schools.)

Larry Aceves

Larry Aceves gets an A+ for Superintendent of Public Instruction. He is the first Latino elected official running for State Superintendent, and with more than 30 years of education experience he is more of an educator than a politician; he is very familiar with the classroom environment. 

Putting a halt to budget cuts, increasing equitable funding, and securing adequate teachers with accountability are some of his goals. He also wants to put serious work into reforming school curriculum, updating school research tools, promoting community apprenticeships, service learning projects, and expanding foreign language options. Aceves will also work to establish programs and facilities that include free medical and dental clinics for low-income children, parenting classes, English language development, and gang prevention training. Last but not least, Aceves wants to reduce class size, improve student achievement and reduce the dropout rates.

Tom Torlakson

Tom Torlakson receives a B for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.Torlakson is an Assembly member and was elected to a final term in the Assembly in 2008, representing California’s 11th District. He previously served as a state Assembly member from 1996–2000 and in the California State Senate from 2000–2008. 

During his time in the Senate, he served as chair of several Senate committees, including the Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Schools and Community. 

Torlakson is a second-generation science teacher and coach. He has also championed legislation to increase funding for instructional materials and bills to enhance campus safety, close the digital divide, eliminate the achievement gap, improve student health, and reduce the dropout rate. 

However, Torlakson’s perspective on reforming the educational system is geared toward politics; he uses the polls to determine the dominant concerns of the voting population, but Latinos account for only 20 percent of voters but 50 percent of the school population. Latino educational issues are best understood by people with lots of classroom experience.

San Francisco State University La Raza Studies class: Professor Teresa Carrillo with students Daniel Arreola, Chris Bell, Robert Brown, Matthew Carter, Alejandro Chavez, Kristya Garcia, Odet Garnica, Karina Gomez, Mauricio Gutierrez, Javier Guzman, Umi Hagitani, Daniel Ilario, Nick Moone, Jeffrey Navarro, Miguel Palacios, Jeannette Parada, Felipe Rivera, Vanessa Serpas, Beauty Sip, Tremaine Thomas, Rachyl Underwood, and Micheal Valle.


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