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Unifying Texas Latino Democrats

In the wake of Barack Obama’s speech last night, two Hispanic Texans, including Houston’s Rick Noriega, are using that power to dispel the notion that Barack Obama cannot win with Latino Democrats. Jodi Breisler reports from Denver.


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Much has been made of Texas being considered a “red” state at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, delegates are staying in the most distant hotel, and being seated high up off of the convention floor. At the same time, there are some Texans in the Convention limelight.

Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte is a Convention Co-Chair. Not only did she get face time on the national networks, she also worked with some of the country’s most prominent Democrats. She was one of four women selected for the honor, and the only Hispanic woman from Texas to ever have the opportunity.

“My grandmothers never even got an elementary education and they came from Mexico. For me it’s just a personal journey and a fulfillment for my family. I get to tell my grandchildren I was there when we had a historic Democratic Convention that nominated Barack Obama as our next President.”

And that’s an important statement coming from the previously dedicated Hillary Clinton supporter. Much media attention has been given to whether Obama can win over Hispanic voters who were firmly in the Clinton camp, especially those over age 45. Van de Putte says the primary wasn’t so much an Obama failure as a Clinton victory.

“Well, I think that because of Hillary Clinton’s strong relationship with the Latino communities all across this country that was her strength. So, believe me, it was never Barack Obama’s weakness.”

A Pew Hispanic Center survey released last month says three fourths of Latino Clinton voters were inclined to vote for Obama in November. Some Democrats worry that could change since Republican John McCain has had a historically good relationship with the Latino community.

Texas Democratic Senate candidate Rick Noriega says the focus should be less on how Obama can reach out to the Hispanic community and more on how the community should look to Obama.

“Mahatma Gandhi used to say that he recognized that in a democratic society that he could not even do social work without the influence of politics. And such is the case here too. The Hispanic community, the state of Texas in particular, are tired of all of these current circumstances, then they have to make the changes themselves.”

Noriega’s talking about data measuring how different ethnic groups are doing, and he says it’s troubling for Latinos.

“Highest dropout rates, highest rates of teen pregnancy, highest rates of children who don’t have insurance or families that don’t have insurance.”

Noriega says those folks need to get involved and vote for their own interests.

“It isn’t any one person that’s going to make that change for them in either party. It’s going to take those folks being involved in the political process. They themselves are going to have to step up and demonstrate the power of the vote.”

The election will show whet her Texas will be more competitive for Democrats. It will also demonstrate how a Hispanic candidate for U.S. Senate fares under a ticket headed by Barack Obama. If Noriega’s race goes better than expected, next convention Van de Putte and the rest of the Texas delegation could be in a hotel a lot closer to the action.

From Capitol News Connection, Jodi Breisler, KUHF-Houston Public Radio.

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