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Calif. candidates seek edge with Latino vote

October 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Throughout California, there's a final push to register Latinos before Monday's deadline. There are nearly 17 million registered voters in California. Nearly 20 percent of them are Latino.Rallies like one in the Boyle Heights Mariachi Plaza are trying to increase Latino political clout.

"We want to vote in large numbers as a Latino community, so that the elected representation says, 'There's a large block of people voting, we've got to pay attention to them,'" said L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar.

Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman is paying attention. She's spent millions on Spanish-language ads on billboards and mailers, and with all the major Spanish-language television and radio stations.

Democrat Jerry Brown has only bought time on Spanish-language radio. A spokesman says Brown has no other Spanish-language advertising, only two weeks before the election.

"The Latino vote will make a difference," said Mike Garcia, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "The candidates that are running for office know that, they're courting the Latino vote heavily, so let's not be fooled."

"We need real change and real solutions, therefore we need to make sure that our politicians are accountable for their promises and make sure they keep the promises to the Latino community," said Boyle Heights resident Manuel Alvarado.

Latinos have the same concerns as everyone else: jobs, health care, education. They put a lot of emphasis on immigration and fear a version of the Arizona immigration law in California.

"It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: If we stay home and not participate then nobody's going to listen to us," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

Latino voter turnout has been increasing dramatically over the years, but not the number of registered voters. November 2 will be a test of the power of the Latino vote.


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