Yes We Did
Despite the ghost of Hillary, local Latinos turned out strong for Obama.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
While Latino voters across the state and in Monterey County rallied behind Barack Obama’s shouts of “Sí se puede!” and helped propel the country’s first African-American president into office, Latino turnout is also receiving some credit for Proposition 8’s success.
Seven in 10 California Latinos backed the Illinois Democrat, according to exit polls conducted for the Associated Press.
“We came out in a massive way,” says Efren Barajas, second vice president for the United Farm Workers, representing the Central Coast. “It was a big push for the Latino community here in the election.”
Locally, Obama captured an overwhelming 68 percent of the vote compared to 30 percent for McCain.
At the same time, exit polls show more than half of Latino voters supported Prop. 8, which aims to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Monterey County voters rejected it with about 52 percent casting “no” votes.
“There was a huge movement in the Latino community for Yes on 8,” says Katherine Dolbec, executive director of the Monterey County Republican Party. “We just weren’t able to harness that momentum for Senator McCain, and we’ll have to work on that in the future.”
Many Latinos, and the UFW, backed Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primaries. “There was a level of mourning after Hillary Clinton didn’t win,” says Cesar Lara, executive director of the Central Coast Citizenship Project and the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council. “Many conversations happened after the primaries were over, and the Latino community rallied around Barack.”
Peter Grothe, an international policy studies professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, says the Latino vote was crucial for Obama’s victory, noting that two-thirds of Latinos supported him nationwide. Grothe says this is the first time that the Latino demographic has shifted so strongly for a Democratic candidate and it’s a positive sign for Dems in the future.
But the large turnout of black and Latino voters for Obama may have also helped the gay marriage ban earn 52 percent of the state vote. Lara and other local Dems, however, don’t buy that. “The churches played a big role of communicating to their members the importance of voting yes on it,” he says.
New Harvest Christian Fellowship in Salinas supported Prop. 8. Rev. Ignacio Torres says marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman for ages, and says there should be a federal constitutional amendment to keep it that way.
He says the conservative values of Latinos– and people throughout the state– helped Prop. 8 pass. “Most Latinos have a traditional upbringing,” Torres explains. “Whether they are in church or not, the majority of them come from a Catholic background.”