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Archive for September 8th, 2014

I am sure a number of Latinos Dems feel used this morning. This one does.

The President said this weekend that he would wait until after the election to act on immigration.

This is not going to help Latino voter turnout this fall. Let me explain.

In the last few election cycles, the immigration issue and immigration activists have been the most effective in driving up Latino voter turnout. This morning the immigration activist community is disappointed and p___ed off. Don’t expect them to get enthusiastic about the November election.

Latino voters also read and watch the news. Here are the messages they are hearing.

The November elections are more important than the Latino community.

A few Democratic U.S. Senators are more important that the Latino community.

Other Dem groups can get theirs, but Latinos have to wait.

Latinos help carry key states in the last few elections, but that doesn’t matter now.

Now one of the story lines of the upcoming election will be “do Latinos turnout to vote after being told to wait on immigration.”

The more that this is talked about, the more likely Latinos will stay home. Sorry Dem folks!

Here is sampling of what is being written:

“When candidate Obama asked our community for support in 2008 and 2012, he urged us all to vote based on our hopes, not our fears,” said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “Today, President Obama gave in to the fears of Democratic political operatives, crushing the hopes of millions of hard-working people living under the constant threat of deportation and family separation.”

And:

“To paraphrase the revolutionary writer Thomas Paine, these politicians are simply sunshine opportunists, who expect Latino voters to support them in good times, but when the going gets tough, they abandon Latinos and their issues as fast as you can say piñata,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice.

And:

“It’s clear that playing it safe is what is going on at the White House … walking away from our values and our principles,”‘ the Illinois Democrat (Cong. Luis Gutierrez) said on ABC’s “This Week.”

And:

This presidential delay means that more innocent people will be deported and more families separated. It’s the triumph of partisan politics…..Jorge Ramos

Our season with the A’s is over. Last year they owned us 15-4. What was our record with the A’s this season?

It says something that the first major story written by the new political reporter for the Chron is about the lack of Latino representation in Congress from the H-Town area. It also landed as the lead front page story in yesterday’s Chron. So the folks that run the Chron certainly think it is an important issue.

Having a Dem Latino or Latina in Congress from the H-Town area would be empowering to the community. What is missing is an articulate voice for us in Congress like on a day when the immigration issue is front and center. Who is going to argue with that?

I don’t buy into the notion that just because the local Latino leaders aren’t for something, it won’t happen. I can still recall the spontaneous immigration marches a few years ago that local Latino leaders were scrambling to lead.

I can picture a scenario where an articulate bilingual Latino or Latina leader steps up, grabs an issue and captures the attention of the community. That is certainly not racist, that’s politics. This discussion isn’t going away. Here is the entire article:

Houston Hispanics had a reason to celebrate. They had won.

After decades of rapid growth in the local Latino population, Texas legislators had set up a new congressional district to elect someone from their community to Congress. The 29th congressional district, local Hispanic leaders said in August 1991, would send new breeds of Americans to Congress.

“Today is a very, very historic day,” said Rep. Roman Martinez, a Houston Democrat who crafted the district in the House. “It is a plan that would elect a Hispanic to Congress for the very first time ever in Harris County.”

Except it didn’t happen.

Two decades after local political leaders thought they had solved the demographic puzzle with a new “opportunity district” that is today three-quarters Latino, no Hispanic has represented it.

As of this election cycle, Houston remains the most Hispanic major metropolitan area in the country without a Latino elected to Congress, a distinction that could revitalize concerns about how historic the 1991 redistricting truly was. The dozen congressional lawmakers who represent Greater Houston’s 2.2 million Hispanics can say they are voices for the community, but Latino leaders worry that because none of them are of the community, Hispanics’ voice in Washington may be muffled.

“When people see the growth … where we’re at politically, I think more and more people are opining, ‘Hey, when are we going to do it?’ ” said Democratic consultant Marc Campos. “People are becoming a little bit more sophisticated about the demographics and what it means for our community.”

What it means is that potential Latino candidates, mollified with political savvy and dispirited by political incumbency, have demurred from challenging the non-Hispanic – Gene Green – who represents them in Congress, and according to some, has served his constituents well. But with each successive election, the path to reversing the trend seems increasingly daunting.

And it draws fresh attention to the challenge that animates community organizers, Democratic groups and even apolitical Hispanics who would like to see a more representative Houston metropolitan area, a lawmaker who can bellow into a megaphone in Spanish on the population’s behalf.

“Wow,” said Maximo Diaz, 66, his face twisting as he reacted to the news in a Fiesta Mart in East Houston. “Our culture here is Hispanic in this area, and there’s never been a Hispanic congressman? That’s surprising.”

Hispanic leaders see reversing the statistical anomaly as only a matter of time.

Nearly 36 percent of those who live in the Houston metropolitan area are Hispanic, according to census figures analyzed by the Pew Hispanic Center, ranking it the fifth most Hispanic metropolitan area among those with more than a million Hispanics.

The Miami and San Antonio areas, both majority Latino, elected Hispanics to Congress decades ago. The Los Angeles area has a rich history of sending Latinos to Congress, and six members of its current delegation are Hispanic. The Inland Empire region, east of Los Angeles, is 48 percent Hispanic and used to hold the distinction that Houston now claims, but has recently produced new Latino leadership – in 2012, voters in Eastern California elected their second Hispanic legislator.

That mantle now falls to Houston.

Hispanic political leaders say they are eager to elect someone who looks like them to Washington. But a far different story has played out in practice.

First victory by 180 votes

Ever since 1992, Latinos in the 29th district have been represented by Green. The congressman bested his Latino opponent in the Democratic primary runoff, Ben Reyes, by 180 votes that year and has not faced a tight primary challenge since he beat Reyes again by 3,000 votes two years later. Reyes later went to federal prison on a bribery conviction.

Other districts in the Houston area are 20 percent to 40 percent Hispanic, but no district epitomizes Hispanics’ struggle for representation like the 29th, centered in east Houston.

Today, Latinos make up 75 percent of that district, but only half of registered voters. Green evokes comparisons to Congressman Steve Cohen, a white Democrat who represents a district in Memphis, Tenn., that is 65 percent African-American. But Green says he is obviously representing his Hispanic constituents – just look at the results, he says.

“We’re not South Africa under apartheid. They’ve had the opportunity, and they made that decision,” Green said, adding, “I’m up every two years.”

And every two years for the past 20, Hispanic voters in the 29th district have sent Green back to Congress. He does not speak Spanish, but political observers note how Green has shrewdly won over the Hispanic community by co-opting threatening Latino leaders and hustling to keep tabs on the community’s pulse. That has kept Hispanic challengers at bay.

“He’s a very smart politician and has done his homework in terms of coming home,” said Maria Jimenez, a longtime Hispanic organizer in Houston.

The district is rich with potential Latino candidates, such as Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and state Sen. Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Carol Alvarado. Hispanic leaders say there is a steady drumbeat of chatter about a Latino challenging Green in a primary, but Green has hired many of these prominent Hispanics over the decades and has built personal loyalties that area Latinos are reluctant to violate.

Workhorse reputation

There is also a harsher political reality: Everyone knows Gene Green.

“If there’s five people meeting in the civic club, I tell you: Gene Green is there,” said Armando Walle, a Hispanic state representative from Houston who once worked for Green. “He can continue to be a member of Congress as long as he wants.”

Green, 66, returns to the district every weekend when Congress is in session and has earned a reputation as a workhorse. Green maintains that is what matters in his district.

“It’s more of a service-oriented district. People want to know what you’re doing to help,” Green said. “I don’t think I’d get re-elected or elected if I wasn’t doing the job.”

That philosophy is echoed in Hispanic Houston, where activists say Green has represented Latinos well in Washington despite not being a member of their community. Politically, that representation means that Green has not created an impetus for change – even if the seat was designed with a Latino lawmaker in mind.

“If you have a good member of Congress that represents their district well, I think it really comes down to – who is clamoring for change?” asked Joaquin Guerra, political director for the Texas Organizing Project in Houston. “When you have a 20-plus congressional incumbent, obviously they seem to be doing something right.”

Because Green has not had a recent primary challenge from a Latino candidate, it remains unclear whether his political power comes from popular support or instead from political muscle. Green has not run a campaign in decades, and some political analysts say that Green would be beatable with the right Hispanic candidate in a presidential election year when minority turnout is generally higher.

First took office in 1972

2016 may be a promising opportunity for this primary. If Green had faced a Hispanic challenger in the 2008 Democratic primary, when the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama drove Latinos to the polls, Green “would have been history,” said one local Hispanic analyst, who has crunched the numbers but was not authorized to comment on them.

Mounting this challenge against Green, however, would involve upsetting voters’ comfort with the legislator who has represented East Houston since 1972 when he was elected to the state House. Green sits on a $1 million war chest he has never had to spend, donors he has never had to tap and political chips he has never had to collect.

Though many Latinos in the area have slowly come to support Green, this support is partially motivated by how mystifying the path to dethroning Green would be.

“I think they finally gave up,” said Chris Bell, a former congressman who is said to be weighing a bid for mayor next year. “The elections were so competitive before and bloody that there really wasn’t an opportunity there.”

Community trusts Green

Garcia, who represents most of Green’s district and was one of the three Latinos who initially ran for the seat in the tough 1992 election, said that race was Hispanics’ best chance to finally elect a Hispanic from the area. Times now have changed, she conceded, and defeating Green is not a priority of the current generation of Hispanic political leadership.

“It’s probably in the back of the mind of a lot of us who follow politics, but we have to be realistic,” she said. “It’s not on anybody’s to-do list in the near future.”

The consequence of this patience is that a seat carved out for a Hispanic two decades ago has eluded the Latino community. But this patience has joined forces with a new post-identity politics that looks beyond legislators’ skin color – Hispanic leaders voice comfort with a non-Latino leader of a heavily Latino district as long as he looks out for their community, which they insist Green is.

“There was outrage at that time that the political system excluded us,” said Jimenez, the godmother of political activists in the Houston area. But when it comes to ethnicity, “the community is now convinced that it doesn’t make a difference.”

The congressman was starker in his criticism of the notion that only a Hispanic could represent Hispanics, labeling the idea “racist.”

“That’s not what our country’s about,” Green said. “We don’t select someone based on their race or ethnicity. We give that majority population the right to make that decision.”

Hispanic leaders today have two routes to shedding the unwanted distinction as the nation’s most unrepresentative city. One path is to carve a second “opportunity district” for Hispanics in the area, as several legislators sought to do during the 2011 redistricting process. Many of those lawmakers expect better luck after the next census, which is expected to show even more Latino growth in Harris County.

Open field waiting to happen

But the more politically foreseeable solution, leaders said, is to simply wait Green out. After four decades of politics, the veteran congressman shows no signs of waning – though he said he does recognize that Latino talent is waiting for his exit.

The Latino political community in Houston is at times divided and lacks an obvious political leader who would clear the field when Green steps down. Garcia, the state senator sometimes mentioned as a potential Green replacement, said the open speculation would quickly turn into an open field once any announcement was made.

“It basically would be a free-for-all because there not has been a real opportunity since the ’90s,” she said.

CNN “Reliable Sources” had an interview yesterday with Chuck Todd, the new moderator for “Meet the Press.” He said he knew folks were tired of DC and the DC media so he was going to try to be a bit different. I watched his debut yesterday. He interviewed the President and he didn’t have any partisan operatives on the program. Not bad!

I then watched “This Week” and switched channels once they brought on the partisan operatives.

The ‘Stros were 8-11 against the A’s this season and it is now official – we won’t lose 100 this season – whew!

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