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Election Road Trip: Maldonado Trying to Get Latinos to Go Republican

Democrat Lois Capps and Republican Abel Maldonado at a September debate sponsored by san luis Obispo times

In the Central Coast’s 24th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Lois Capps is challenged by Republican Abel Maldonado. Here, both candidates are at a September debate sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Times. (Photo: Scott Shafer)

For the past two decades California has been tough political terrain for Republicans, in part because the state’s growing Latino population overwhelmingly supports Democrats.

On the Central Coast, Republican Congressional candidate Abel Maldonado is hoping his Mexican heritage will help bridge that divide by appealing to Latinos and independent voters. Maldonado, a former lieutenant governor, is the kind of candidate the Republican Party covets these days.

“My father and mother came to this country with nothing,” Maldonado says.

He’s the oldest son of migrant workers — Maldonado’s father came from Mexico in 1965 as a guest worker, eventually starting his own farm and growing it into a family business.

“The Republican Party has not done a good job of communicating with the fastest growing population in America, which happens to be Hispanics.”
At the age of 26, after a long battle with local bureaucrats over a permit for a refrigerated warehouse on the farm, Maldonado was elected to the Santa Maria City Council. He rose to higher office, in the Assembly and Senate, and was eventually appointed lieutenant governor by Arnold Schwarzenegger when the office became vacant.

“So just imagine me sitting next to my mother picking strawberries in the fields and becoming California’s 47th lieutentant governor,” the boyish 45-year-old says.

Maldonado lost his bid to remain Lieutenant Governor in an election against Gavin Newsom. But now he’s running in the 24th Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Lois Capps. The newly drawn seat is much more competitive than it was before redistricting. It would seem tailor-made for a moderate Republican businessman like Maldonado. Continue reading

In Central Valley, Organizers Aim For Untapped Latino Vote

By Alice Daniel

Daniela Simunovic, an organizer for Communities for a New California, works with Edgar Acevedo and another young canvasser to get out the vote in Sanger, CA. (Photo: Alice Daniel)

Daniela Simunovic, an organizer for Communities for a New California, works with Edgar Acevedo and another young canvasser to get out the vote in the central valley town of Sanger. (Photo: Alice Daniel)

Daniela Simunovic is an organizer for the non-profit group Communities for a New California. She’s advising students who are about to walk a neighborhood to register voters.

“What are you going to do if somebody says they don’t want to vote?” she asks her students.

“Ask them why not?” comes a reply.

“In a friendly tone, of course,” says one of the students.

These canvassers are working in the small Central Valley town of Sanger, where only half of the 12,000 potential Latino voters are registered. And even those who are registered aren’t voting. Just 1,200 Latino voters — out of those 12,000 potentials — cast a ballot in the 2010 election. While Latino voters have become an integral part of California politics, participation lags across the Valley.

More than 250,000 eligible Latino voters in the San Joaquin Valley have not registered

“If we were able to mobilize all the voters, we would really be able to change some outcomes in some elections on the issues that are important for our communities,” Simunovic says.

Those issues, she believes, include propositions on the November ballot. That’s why Communities for a New California is also conducting a fall campaign to inform Latino voters on propositions it feels are key to their interests, starting with labor rights and education. Continue reading

Romney Courts Hispanic Business Leaders in Los Angeles

By Frank Stoltze, KPCC

(Anibal Ortiz: KPCC)

(Anibal Ortiz: KPCC)

Seeking to gain traction with Latino voters, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney traveled to Los Angeles Monday to deliver his pitch to the annual meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m convinced the Republican Party is the rightful home for Hispanic Americans,” Romney told more than 1,000 people during a noontime lunch at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown L.A.

The GOP may be Latinos’ “rightful home,” but an NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll last month found them still preferring Democrats. The survey found President Obama leads Romney 63 to 28 percent among Latinos.

Romney sought to close that gap by touting his commitment to lower taxes and fewer regulations. He told the group of business leaders that Latinos have more reason than most to dump Obama: “While national unemployment is at 8.1 percent, Hispanic unemployment is at over ten percent.” Continue reading