In NY-9 Special Election, Questions About Outreach To Latino Voters

| August 24, 2011 9:56 AM

Both Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin and his Republican opponent Bob Turner are heavily courting Jewish voters in the special election for the Ninth Congressional District in Queens and Brooklyn. Asian voters also are feeling the love. But one population group that makes up a significant portion of the district seems to be getting left in the cold: Latino voters.

Both Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin and his Republican opponent Bob Turner have made little attempt to reach out to Latino voters for this fall's special election. Courtesy of City Hall News.

There are around 100,000 Latinos in the district, of whom 40,000 are registered voters, including 27,000 Democrats, according to U.S. Census data and voter registration data. For context, there are approximately 33,000 registered Jewish Democrats in the district.

Analysts suggest that Latino voters could prove crucial in a low-turnout vote like this one, especially if Weprin’s campaign begins a targeted push to reach out to Latinos.

So far, there has been a Women for Weprin event and an Asians for Weprin press release, and Weprin has spent much of his time campaigning in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. But no major push for Hispanics has materialized.
“Given how poor the GOP brand is on immigration and unemployment issues, not to mention Medicare and Medicaid … if the Democrats launch a robust and surgical GOTV drive amongst Hispanic and Asian Democrats, Weprin should win comfortably,” one analyst said. “Will they?”

Voting expert Jerry Skurnik of Prime New York said that the mere fact that neither Weprin nor Turner identify themselves as Hispanic — though Weprin’s mother was born in Cuba — may be enough to suppress Latino turnout in the race.

“My guess is that both campaigns don’t think the turnout among Hispanics will be very high because neither candidate is identified as Hispanic,” Skurnik said.

Weprin and Turner have spent the last few weeks trading barbs over a variety of issues, from funding for Medicaid and Social Security, to the Islamic cultural center planned near Ground Zero, to government spending and the role of the Tea Party in politics.

But the debate has rarely touched on issues important to many Latino voters, namely education and immigration. The candidates made a brief mention of their views on immigration at a candidates’ forum in Kew Gardens, Queens, on Monday night, while the debate over Israel’s post-1967 borders received far more attention.

Latino New Yorkers are interspersed throughout the Ninth District, with some concentration in Glendale in the southwest portion of the district. One Democratic operative working on the race said that while there were no plans to target voters specifically on the issue of immigration, Weprin is a self-professed supporter of the DREAM Act, which would provide citizenship status to some students of foreign birth who are in the U.S. illegally.

Read the full post at City Hall News.

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