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The future looks young, diverse, and tolerant in Colorado as the state Democratic Party elected Rick Palacio to be their new leader over the weekend. A strategist and former Congressional aide, Palacio is Latino, openly gay, only 36, and will represent the party’s bid to court young and Latino voters in coming elections.
Progressive Involvement reports that Palacio is an 8th-generation Coloradan, the son of a union steelworker and the grandson of union miners—his grandmother survived the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, in which the Colorado National Guard attacked 1,200 striking coal miners and their families and killed nineteen.
After the vote, Palacio said that he was “very excited”:
I’m excited for our party. We have a lot of work ahead of us as Democrats. I look forward to working with Democrats from all 64 different counties to make sure that we succeed in 2012.
Colorado is a swing state, poised to once again be a fierce electoral battleground in 2012, and Palacio’s election reflects a Democratic party determined to keep their state blue. Latinos make up 20 percent of Colorado’s population, and 56 percent of them are registered Democrats (12 percent are registered Republicans). Latinos were 13% of the Colorado electorate in 2010, up from 9% in 2006. There are no Latino Republicans currently serving in the state legislature—probably because their candidates keep running self-destructive, immigrant-bashing campaigns.
In 2010, Colorado was part of a Latino “Western firewall” that helped keep the US Senate in Democratic hands when it elected Michael Bennet over Ken Buck by a mere 15,000 votes—in a contest where 81% of Latinos went for Bennet.
In the 2008 presidential election before that, Colorado was one of four states (along with Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida) that Latinos made competitive for Obama, and keeping them in his column will be crucial to any reelection effort in 2012.
Of course, that would require the Obama administration to honor a campaign promise to actually do something about immigration, rather than pushing hard-line enforcement over reform, deporting Haitians, and in general showing no leadership on the issue.