NYC Latino Republicans Weigh In

Contrary to popular belief New York City does have a few Latino Republicans (and at least one influential “independent” voter). Surprisingly, unlike previous political campaigns, they have laid low during these elections.

One of the most notable Latino Republicans, former Congressman Herman Badillo, became a Republican in 1998 after about twenty-five years as a Democrat. Even though he originally supported Guiliani, he became frustrated with Guiliani’s stance on immigration. For the Super Tuesday elections Badillo backs McCain.

Click here to listen to a clip of an interview with Mr. Badillo.

Q: What do you think the Latino vote means in this election?
A: Well, the Latino vote would be crucial because I don’t think anyone can be elected without the support of the Latino community. I think that Rudy Guiliani certainly proved that in Florida. When he campaign here in New York, even as a Republican, he got a good percentage of the Latino vote, which I helped him get. But he got nothing in Florida. That certainly hurt him enormously.

Q: What could he have done better?

A: There are a lot of Latino votes in Florida which are Republican, as you know because they are Cubans and they vote Republicans for the most part. In New York City as mayor, he had been in support of the illegal immigrants and he said, many times, that he did not think that anyone could deport 12 million illegal immigrants. But when he became the candidate for president, he changed his mind and came out against illegal immigrants, and in the process, he antagonized the Republican Senator of Florida Mel Martinez, who was the author of the comprehensive immigration bill. So Mel Martinez came out against him and that cost him the Cuban vote. And because Mel Martinez came out against him, then the Governor of Florida came out against him as well. So it was a very bad mistake.
Q: So as far as immigration policy, that is such a sensitive topic in this campaign. Every Latino knows someone who may have arrived undocumented and later on gained residency and became naturalized. Or knows someone currently who is still in that position.
A:Yes, so if you are against the illegal immigrants, you are likely to lose the Latino vote. And then Rudy should have known that.

Since immigration has become such a decisive and divisive political issues, Fernando Mateo, the current president of Hispanics Across America, also believes a Republican must understand the importance of immigration to Latinos.

Mateo, who spoke at the 2004 Republican Convention, used to be registered as a Republican but then dropped his affiliation with the GOP to become an independent voter. He said McCain has an advantage over Mitt Romney because “Hispanics watch out for one another.”

“I think that Mitt Romney has proven to be very insensitive to immigrant issues,” said Mateo. “It’s not the undocumented immigrants that he should be concerned about. Its the documented one that are U.S. citizens and that have relatives here.”

Click here to listen to a clip of an interview with Mr. Mateo.

Q: How do you think it’s going to play out on Tuesday?
A: I think a Republican like McCain will probably take it. Democratic wise, I think Hillary will take it. I think that because you know there is a strong Hispanic presence up here, Hillary has the edge over Obama. She’s reached out to our community a lot more and she has got a lot more constituents up here, that are elected officials that are supporting her so they are pushing her agenda in their districts where Obama has no base. And the trips that Obama has made up here, none of them has been to the Hispanic community. So, if you are referring to the Hispanic community, that is my answer. If you are referring to in general, I still believe the answer would remain the same.
Q: Do you think that Obama might take the Hispanic youth vote away from Hillary?
A: I think that he’ll take some votes. But I really don’t know. I think that Hillary’s presence up here is really strong among the youth and the middle-aged the baby boomers, as well as you know the elderly. Will he attract rebels that want something different? Yes. Will attract people that are looking for a change for a “visual change?” Yes. Will he attract the Black vote? I think that he will probably divide the Black vote. I don’t think that he’s going to run with it, at least not up here. He might attract 60% of the Black vote, but I think the other 40% will hold strong for Hillary. So up in the Northeast, I believe, that’s the way it’s going to go. In reference to the Republicans, I think that the message that McCain is putting out is a lot stronger than the message Mitt Romney is putting out.

As far as the Republican vote outside of New York, Mateo sticks with McCain despite some of the anti-immigrant sentiment that persists in other states because McCain has a strong position on the war and he’s conservative. Mateo wanted those candidates who invoked Ronald Reagan to remember that he gave amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants. Mateo said that more and more Hispanics have become Republicans since the Reagan years.

One of these Hispanics, Martin Chicon, has been a Republican since the age of 18. Chicon, now 41, first voted Republican 24 years ago — during the Reagan years. A resident of the mostly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, Chicon is the Republican district leader for the 72nd Assembly District in Northern Manhattan.

Chicon, who at first did not like McCain, will follow the party-line and vote for him in New York’s Super Tuesday primary. Chicon said that though McCain seemed to be against the Republican party, what has saved him is that he’s the “anti-Hillary.”

Still, Chicon missed his chance to see McCain one of the few times he came to New York.

“McCain came to Sylvia’s (soul food restaurant in Harlem) and it was amazing,” said Chicon. “I didn’t go. I am a responsible person. Unless McCain has a 50 thousand dollar job for me.”

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One Response

  1. Well reported, and the prediction Mateo made did prove true.

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