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Friday, November 05, 2010

Hispanic vote could have avoided Connecticut embarrasment in governor's race

The Connecticut gubernatorial race is still undecided and neither candidate, Dan Malloy or Tom Foley has yet to concede. While it now appears Mall0y may have won, the results have been confusing from the start.

First, the city of Bridgeport, which is hugely democratic, ran out of ballots after only ordering approximately 21,000 ballots for the nearly 70,000 registered voters in the city. A judge then took the unusual step of ordering the polls in the city opened until 10 PM, two hours past the scheduled closing. The Bridgeport mayor used the city's reverse 9-11 system, which is supposed to be only for emergencies, to let citizens know and encourage them to return to the polls.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of State even took the unusual step of holding a press conference to declare Malloy the "unofficial" winner. Soon after, the AP -- which called the race for Malloy following the election -- retracted its declaration adding to the drama.

As it stands at the time of this posting, either Malloy is up from between 3,000 - 5,400 votes or Foley is up by nearly 8,500.

Regardless, I have to wonder if we'd even been in this mess and if Connecticut would be looking like the Florida of 2000 had either candidate made a serious effort to court the Hispanic vote in the state. Sure, they appeared at some events, they connected with some Hispanic business and civic groups, and the last week or two of the campaign did some interviews in the Spanish-language media. But, neither made any significant expenditures in the market or invested any real resources.

For instance, my contacts at both Univision and Telemundo report not receiving a $1 to buy air time from either campaign, while the English-media airwaves were saturated with political ads.

In addition, neither made any real attempt to hone their messages to address to issues of importance to Hispanic voters in Connecticut. Yes, like everyone else, jobs was and is the biggest issue but how job creation is being addressed in the urban areas, some of which are 40%+ Hispanic, wasn't addressed to the population in any meaningful way.

Again, the Hispanic voter in Connecticut was an after thought and wasn't respected. As was the case when Rob Simmons lost his seat to Rep. Joe Courtney in 2006 by only 83 votes in the 2nd District that includes cities like Willimantic, New London and Norwich that have high Hispanic percentages, and when I blogged about Sen. Joe Lieberman's loss in the primary to Ned Lamont in 2006, I am convinced the Hispanic vote would have made a difference.

Of the state's 425,000 Hispanics about 65% are Puerto Rican. Puerto Rico has historically enjoyed high voting percentages in nearly all its elections. In Connecticut, their and the rates for all Hispanic voters drops considerably as many report they don't feel the politicians have their issues at heart or speak for them. Apathy, unfortunately, has become the norm for Hispanics that are willing to respond if engaged.

Nearly 300,000 of the 425,000 Connecticut Hispanics speak a language other than English at home, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, making the lack of the candidates' exposure and communication of issues in the Spanish-language media significant.

It is being widely reported that the Latino vote in Nevada essentially kept Sen. Harry Reid in office (as well as Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in California) but no one is reporting how the Latino vote in Connecticut could have prevented this embarrassing situation.

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