Campaigns and Political Parties Need to Spice it Up

Domino Effect English

 By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hispanics or Latinos. Most of us are known to be warm individuals, amicable and culturally engaging. We do not tend to be a society that is reluctant to open up to those who approach us. Quite the opposite. We are that weird family inviting you over to our house without hardly even knowing you and trying to make you drink one more tequila as we try to “enchilarte” (make you eat something spicy that you can’t handle) for our entertainment. At least that is how it is in our Mexican-Colombian household. Like we would say in Spanish: “Entre mas amigos, mejor.” Translated to English; “the more friends we have, the better it is for us”.

With our culture in mind, it is mind boggling how such a great political force is not being engaged by those in political power. There is no turning back my friends. You cannot wait six months before the 2016 or 2018 election to come knocking on our door. You cannot turn away the opportunity of having a debate in a national TV channel in Spanish. You need to get to know us, and allow us to know you.  You need to gain our trust and tell us why we are so important to you, to our state and to this country.

Not engaging the Hispanic/Latino community

According to Latino Decisions, a leader in Latino political opinion research, in 2014, 55% of Latinos that were polled said they were not contacted by a campaign, political party or community organization in the final months before the election. The polls they have reported over the years document the consistently low rates of campaign engagement of Latinos/Hispanics eligible to vote.

In Florida, a state where the largest minority of registered voters is Hispanic, the 2014 gubernatorial candidate won by about 1 percentage point-a 61,000 vote difference. In 2012, Latino Decisions reported that 48 percent of registered Latinos voted nationwide. According to numbers shared by Miami Herald’s political reporter Marc Caputo, 64 percent (over 1 million) of registered Latinos voted in the 2012 Florida General Election.  As stated by different analysts and even supervisors of elections, people go out to vote based on the inertia that the campaigns and the political parties place into the election. After having conversations with both Latino Democrats and Republicans around the state of Florida, here are some observations:

We do not know who to vote for

The domino effect in reference to Hispanics and politicos is that Hispanics do not get involved due to not knowing who to vote for. Also, according to those individuals who are engaging our community, many Latinos do not know what each political party represents. To their dismay, political parties and campaigns do not take the time to invest in them.

Wait for the “big honchos” to infiltrate the state

2016 is on its way and what seems to be the tendency for political parties and campaigns to do here in Florida is to wait for the national party team to bring in their “movers and shakers” in order for them to win Florida. Many do not know the community in Florida, they just see numbers. Every 4 years a new group of people come in and have to start practically from scratch trying to figure out how to reach our community. Those Hispanics/Latinos who know the community and who are from Florida are not included and their knowledge is underestimated.

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The Hispanic Vote: The Largest Minority Voting Bloc in Florida

Hispanic family outside home

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

The most recent voter registration numbers as of July 28, 2014 show that there are 1,705,985 Hispanics registered to vote in Florida in the upcoming elections. 14% of the 11, 807,507 Florida registered voters are Hispanic, making us the largest minority voting bloc in Florida.  We surpassed the African American vote in Florida by 100,000.  However, our numbers are possibly higher due to the fact that the voter registration applications did not start including the term Hispanic until after 1995 on the voting registration application.  In addition, to this day, it is optional to place if you are Hispanic or not.

The five largest counties with registered Hispanics are:

 710,446 in Miami Dade County

190,322 in Broward County

153,387 in Orange County

113,380 in Hillsborough County

81,641 in Palm Beach County

This makes South Florida the most populous area of Hispanic voters in Florida.  In addition, we see why the Hispanic vote is the swing vote for the upcoming 2014 elections.

466,778 Hispanics are Republicans, 652,784 are Democrats and 558,707 have No Party Affiliation. There are only 20,831 registered as Independents.  Due to the differences in cultural, political and social beliefs, it is very difficult to know how Hispanics are going to sway.  The Hispanic vote is one of the few votes that campaigns will need to fight for.

You may ask; why such a large amount of No Party Affiliation?  My theory?  When I was spokeswoman at the Supervisor of Elections office in Broward County, the Voter Education and Outreach team would go to the Naturalization ceremonies to register new citizens.  Many new citizens did not know what it meant to be a Republican or Democrat, so they opted to place No Party Affiliation when they registered.  We live in a society where many Hispanics do not understand the beliefs of the two strongest parties that exist in the United States.  Another theory is that those Hispanics, who do understand the political parties, are tired of promises, pandering and punishment and have changed their affiliation from a specific party to focusing on what a person has to give as a candidate.  Hispanics, even when they are associated with a certain party, vote for the person and not the party.  Although many may not understand what their political views are, they do get brownie points for being charismatic, Hispanic and for being verbal in regards to the issues that matter to Hispanics.  Others just want a candidate that stands up for his or her beliefs.

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July 4th should mean something to us all

Business man with USA flag t-shirtBy Evelyn Perez-Verdia

This July 4th many Hispanics are ready to show their passion and love for their country.  They are ready to cry as they sing the national anthem.  However, their tears will not be shed for the Independence of America.  Instead, they will be showing their passion, their love for the Game of futbol (or as Americans call it, soccer).  Especially Colombians who will all be dressed in the colors of their flag and will be celebrating that they have advanced to the final eight teams for the first time in Colombia’s World Cup history.  On July 4th they will be playing against Brazil.  Colombia will proudly stand for the national anthem and sing the words that they have memorized since childhood.

So much passion exists in Hispanics and yet, so little passion when it comes to the politics of the United States. When the World Cup starts some Hispanics even take vacation time to see the games.  However, they do not take the time to go and vote here in the United States.  When talking to Hispanics many say it is because they do not feel connected to this new place they have decided to live in, but not a place that they can call home.

July 4th is a day that we as Hispanics might take as a reason to have a party.  However, as Hispanics we should always remember that we are in a land where immigrants of many places shed their blood so that we could have the liberty to pursue our own happiness.  Men and women who have  fought so that our children could have a better future and could have the right to vote.

We should also remember not to take this country for granted.  It is difficult for me to see as a Hispanic how many Hispanics live in this country and have absolutely no connection with what it means to be part of this country.  They are here for the opportunities, but their hearts stay in their homeland.  This is one of the sad reasons why sometimes Americans dislike us so much.  Because they feel that many Hispanics have no respect for the country we live in.  We show no interest in participating in the process.  It is our responsibility to change the way Americans view us.  It is time as Hispanics to make a decision: Are you an American or are you someone from your country just living in America?

The moment we understand that we are not betraying our country of birth by being an American, will be the day that we will create a sense of love for America.  It is time to have a sense of love for the American flag that has embraced us.

On this July 4th, the Independence Day of the United States, we must remember to be grateful for the opportunity to be part of this beautiful country.  This day, as Hispanics, let’s remember that our hearts are big enough to love two countries, and have some space for soccer too.

Tips On Winning The Hispanic Vote

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

Tip: if running a statewide campaign, 15% of your media budget should be focused on Hispanic media outlets. We are 15% or more of the vote. Remember to not only invest in TV, but also print and radio. Do not forget about our local community papers in Spanish–they are the gatekeepers to the Hispanic community. I also mention some other things to keep in mind for the upcoming election season.

Face-Off: The Hispanic Engagement Strategy for the Crist and Scott Campaigns

 

Left to right: Jaime Florez and Omar Khan

Left to right: Jaime Florez and Omar Khan

I have been writing often in reference to the 2014 Florida gubernatorial campaigns. Whichever campaign focuses heavily and strategically on the Hispanic vote, will be the winner of the 2014 Florida gubernatorial campaign.   I decided to contact the Crist and Scott campaign and ask them about their campaign’s current Hispanic engagement efforts.  Here is what they had to say:

This is what Jaime Florez, Hispanic Communications Director for the Rick Scott Campaign had to say about their Hispanic engagement:

“This week, Let’s Get to Work will be launching Oportunidad, its first Spanish language TV and digital ad. I cannot recall a previous gubernatorial campaign in Florida where Spanish paid media started this early. The initial $500,000 Spanish media buy, which launches Wednesday, is only the first of many to come that will share with Spanish-speaking Floridians Governor Rick Scott’s record and vision for our state. Still, paid advertisements are just one component of a comprehensive effort in engaging Hispanic voters throughout our state at every level, especially at the grassroots, with a sustained volunteer-to-voter contact.

We are very excited about the foundation we have laid over the last several months to get to this point. We have a Spanish communication shop providing daily information to the Spanish-language press. Our Hispanic Political Directors have been building a strong network of support within the Hispanic community’s elected officials, civic, faith-based and business leaders. The Spanish website www.rickscottporlaflorida.com will be going live tomorrow, giving voters the option to follow our campaign and receive updates in English or Spanish. On our social media sites, we’ve posted bilingual messages, encouraging followers to communicate in the language of their preference.

Much is said about “Hispanic Outreach” in politics and gauging a campaign’s commitment to secure the Hispanic vote by a set of benchmarks: How much is spent on Spanish paid media? Does the campaign have a Spanish press shop? Is there a Spanish website? Do they have a Hispanic political team? Going by the traditional political checklist, our campaign is months ahead of the Charlie Crist operation in putting into place and executing a campaign that is committed to earning the vote of each Hispanic in Florida. It’s noteworthy that if the Crist team has not been able to maintain an English speaking spokesperson, imagine how long it will take them to hire and keep a Spanish speaking spokesperson? All kidding aside, our campaign is not traditional. From the Governor to our volunteers, this campaign is committed to not just checking a list of benchmarks. We will implement the most robust “Hispanic Outreach” seen yet.

Florida’s diversity provides for a unique campaign approach that is more substantive and goes beyond traditional “outreach” but requires a more in- depth commitment and discipline to build an enlace with the Hispanic community. By continuing to execute this approach we will prove successful in November. More importantly, the ethnic richness of our state strengthens the focus of our campaign, which is ultimately about creating oportunidades for ALL Floridians.”

This is what Omar Khan, Campaign Manager for the Charlie Crist Campaign had to say about their Hispanic engagement:

“We are focused on building a campaign that looks like the people of Florida. One of our first senior staff hires is Hispanic, and we will certainly be communicating with voters through Hispanic media. And just today, we’ve launched www.CharlieCrist.com/Espanol to share Governor Crist’s vision with Florida’s Spanish-speaking community.

But more important than the process of the campaign is policy of the candidate. Governor Crist believes that our state’s diversity is its greatest strength. He believes that we can create more opportunities by lifting all boats: investing in making college more affordable, and putting a laser focus on making Florida the beacon for Latin American trade and tourism, which will create thousands of new job opportunities for small businesses. Governor Crist will create a Florida Trade and Development Representative whose job will be to open doors for Florida businesses to new markets – particularly Latin American – and who will answer directly to the Governor.

This is a significant departure from Governor Scott, who campaigned on bringing an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, has reduced opportunities for HIspanic students to get an affordable college education, and has made it much harder for people to vote. Charlie Crist believes everyone should be able to live the American Dream here in Florida.”

My thoughts?  If I could give two pieces of advice out to any campaign it is this:

1.  Make sure you are sending out press releases in Spanish to media en Español  and Hispanic community leaders.  Every press release you have in English should be in Spanish also.

2. Invest, invest, invest statewide in placing ads with local community papers in Spanish as they are the gatekeepers of the Hispanic community.  This is the paper that the community picks up to read.  Seeing your ad in these papers sends a message that says: “you matter to me”  Contact me if you would like my opinion on which ones I would use statewide.

Are All Florida Gubernatorial Campaigns Failing to Reach Out to Hispanics?

 

Rick Scott Paella

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

It has been going so well lately for Governor Rick Scott.   As governor, he has finally started appearing in touch with the multicultural Hispanic community that represents Florida.  He stood with the Venezuelan community when they needed someone from the government to show that they cared about the current uproar in their country.  He appointed Cuban-American Carlos Lopez-Cantera as his Lieutenant Governor.  He went to a Paella festival in Miami.  He has stopped the voter purge that many say would affect Hispanics going to the polls.  We Hispanics might as well start calling him “Ricardito Eskot” for his savvy choices in reaching out to the Hispanic community–regardless if they are sincere or not.

Governor Scott has done everything right to attract Hispanics to his campaign. However, due to recent events, the opposition and media believe Scott is hiring people who do not understand the political landscape of Florida and the importance of being sensitive to Hispanic culture. I am referring to the recent incident of former co-finance chairman Mike Fernandez resigning for Rick Scott’s campaign due to his feeling a lack of connection to Hispanic outreach in the Scott campaign. Is the lack of connection towards Hispanics only being felt in Scott’s campaign? I believe it is larger than this, and if you sit down with each campaign and ask them to inform you of the amount of money that they will allocate toward Hispanic engagement and media during the campaign, you will come to the conclusion that even though they point their finger at Scott, sadly, there might be three fingers pointing back at them. How much is each gubernatorial campaign allocating toward Hispanic engagement and Hispanic directed media? Kindly I would like to ask them to show us the numbers. My next concern is the following: why is it so difficult to get in touch with the Scott and Crist campaign?

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Should we continue sleeping?

sleeping giants

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

There are more than a million and a half Hispanics registered to vote in Florida, accounting for 14% of the total registered voters.  However, this figure is likely low because there are many cases in which a person does not self-identify as a Hispanic.  I am a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Legally, I am not required to identify myself as Hispanic when registering to vote.  Taking into account the many people that might not identify as Hispanic for whatever reason, surely the number of voters rises to 16% or higher.

It is a fact that many of our elections are decided by a margin of 10% or less, making the Hispanic vote important enough to see it as a ‘sleeping giant’.  This population is a giant, being that it holds the power to sway an election, such as the upcoming Primary and General elections in fall 2014, when we will choose the next Florida Governor.

Should the Hispanic voters continue sleeping through these important moments?  What are we, as Hispanics doing in light of this reality?  Are we doing nothing at all, or perhaps we are only registering to vote because of the discount on our property taxes?   This is precisely what many of you are doing.  And this pleases the many people that do not want us to become citizens.  If we do become citizens, then they would revel in the fact we might choose not to participate in the process and marginalize ourselves. Or perhaps, they might realize many of us might vote without knowing any of the candidates well, or without having any real reasons to vote for them.  But the reasons are critical.  These candidates will be the ones representing you, making laws that impact everything from your childrens’ education to the amount of taxes you will be paying.  They will be those making decisions impacting the businesses that are at the heart of our economy, and the institutions that are crucial to our health care system.  They will be voting on our immigrations laws…they will decide everything!

While some would like to dissuade you from voting and say that you’re simply a drop of water in an ocean of people, that’s simply not true.  Wake up to the reality that you have the strength to unite with many around you until eventually becoming a sea of change!  Those who prefer you to stay outside of the system would prefer you to not understand how the government functions.  It is better for some this way, because then they do not need to feel accountable to you.

Many advisors to politicians analyze how strong the Hispanic vote is in their area before deciding whether or not to support the laws that the community are passionate about.  The fewer the Hispanic votes, the easier it is for many political strategists and directors to ignore these issues.  Many times, the lack of a large vote from the Hispanic community means that there is little investment in Hispanic media, making awareness of the campaigns even less than the usual.  Continue reading