03/11/10 a 11:54am por Maribel Hastings
MIAMI / ORLANDO – Will voter discontent translate into more or fewer Latino votes on Nov. 2? Which party will benefit? Will Latino voters offer any surprises in Florida?
In Miami, several interviewees said they would vote. They are motivated by the economy, unemployment, the mortgage crisis, health issues and taxes. Some said that immigration, while important, was not their main motivation for voting; for others, the topic defines the parties.
Many Republicans seem to be motivated—among them husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Michael and Maria Vazquez.
“Everyone is very motivated, there is general repudiation, people are angry, disenchanted,” said Miguel. And the discontent will ensure that people vote.
They have chosen Republicans Marco Rubio,for U.S. Senate and Rick Scott for governor.
“Cubans support immigration, but in an orderly and legal manner, and I think Scott is looking for that path,” he said.
“Rubio thinks like Cubans: immigration should be legal, everyone should speak English; he’s conservative and is a person of values.”
María, his wife, said: “I’ve been here 50 years and I’ve never seen a movement like the Tea Party, or so much disappointment.” But according to María, “the Tea Party is positive. It’s a massive protest.”
She supports Rubio, but doesn’t know if she’ll support Scott.
The owner of an upholstery shop also assured us that he plans to vote, and said that “there’s a lot of buzz because there is a very violent struggle between Republicans and Democrats.”
“But I don’t get too wrapped up with that. If the Democrats win, they win. If the Republicans win, I’ll still have my business. I’ve had it for twenty years and have been a whole string of Presidents”
He added that he doesn’t like Obama much, “but the truth is that the president has had too many things on his plate”.
Another voter said “the truth is that they left the country so bad for Obama that the man is trying to do the best he can.”
But he’ll vote for Rubio “because he is young and the other two don’t convince me.”
In Orlando, part of the I-4 corridor–where the Hispanic vote was vital for Obama’s victory in 2008–we found ourselves in another community hurt by unemployment and foreclosures, but we also saw large communities of undocumented immigrants, and greater empathy for the issue of immigration reform.
Yanidsi Vélez, a community activist who works with Democracia Ahora and other groups, explained that in Central Florida there’s a lot of frustration “because progress has not been immediate.” But “Latinos will vote for two reasons: disappointment and hope.” “The majority understands that change is not immediate, and these are the ones who will vote and can call on others to vote,” she added.
The challenge, she says, is to turn out those who voted for the first time in 2008 when they see that many things have not materialized. Newly-registered voters are also a challenge.
“Older Puerto Ricans do vote. It’s the young Latino vote that we are looking for now,” she said.
During an event at Valencia Community College in Kissimmee, Mirna, an elderly Puerto Rican voter, said “I will vote to see if the changes the Democrats promised will become a reality, because we’re getting really tired of this. But I know they must be given time to make changes. ” She supports Meek and the Democratic candidate for governor, Alex Sink.
Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, said it’s on the I-4 corridor that Meek and Sink should win support from Hispanic voters if they make themselves known effectively in these last few weeks.
“The one with the best record for the I-4 corridor would be Meek, who supported Sonia Sotomayor (for the Supreme Court) when Charlie Crist opposed her, and has consistently supported immigration reform,” said Navarro.
Neither Scott nor Sink are well known in the Hispanic community, “so everything will depend on who makes themselves known and who has a better message in these last weeks.”
Rubio, Navarro said, “just needs to keep his Republican base together to win.”
Danny, a Puerto Rican, voted in 2008 but will not vote this year because “be it Republicans or Democrats, they’re the same and I will not waste my time voting for people who are not going to do anything.”
Camerina, a Mexican, was visiting Orlando; although she still can’t vote, she’s urging her family and others to do so. “Disappointment should not be a reason not to vote. My message is not to abstain. ”
Maribel Hastings is a senior advisor and analyst for America’s Voice