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Ohio Latino leaders influence Presidential race with LatinOHs

By La Prensa Staff

CLEVELAND/LORAIN/TOLEDO, Oct. 28, 2020: According to most political polls, Ohio is still very much in play in the presidential race. But after four years of President Donald Trump, several of the state’s Latino leaders are trying to tip the scales in a new political direction—as the bellwether Buckeye state is ripe for such an effort.

LatinOHs for Biden/Harris formed as a statewide grassroots organization just before the unofficial start to the fall campaign [traditionally, around Labor Day]. The group’s mission is to get out the Latino vote in Ohio with the hope of electing the Democratic presidential ticket of former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, especially Latinos and African Americans. Hospitalization rates for Latinos are 4.5 times the rate among whites,” said Evelyn Rivera, a Cleveland-based clinical psychologist and one of LatinOHs born-starters. “Mortality rates are also higher in the Latino community. In addition, Latino children are eight times more likely to be hospitalized if they contract COVID19.” Ms. Rivera had also been coordinating with Latina leaders from Columbus and Cincinnati.

 

LatinOHs for Biden/Harris members contend President Trump downplayed and even botched the early coronavirus response, leading to the out-of-control situation and more than 225,000 deaths presently being faced in the U.S. Ms. Rivera believes the Biden-Harris ticket will work to stop the spread of coronavirus while protecting access to health care so pandemic victims “can heal and get the care that they need.”

Retired Cleveland-area attorney José Feliciano, Sr., 70, has always been involved in local political matters, but felt compelled to spend his spare time this fall working with LatinOHs for Biden/Harris because of matters of “the opportunity and freedom for all, values, and integrity.”

“The third thing is experience. He is an experienced and accomplished public figure, not only domestically, but internationally,” said Feliciano. “With integrity, I think Trump’s got nothing. The Washington Post has probably documented 25,000 lies. You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m a lawyer, so the rule of law is huge for me. Just look at how he’s trampled on the rule of law.”

One of the issues that rankles Feliciano the most is how the current president is treating immigration, separating children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. He cited a recent report where authorities cannot identify the parents of more than 500 such children.

“I didn’t anticipate, that at age 70, I was going to have to be involved in phone banks, calling people, trying to get people to participate,” he said. He also has helped to organize “caravanas” (caravans) similar to how politics operates in Central and South America, where cars drive through a neighborhood with a megaphone, playing music and distributing literature.

The caravanzas also reduced the odds of spreading the dreaded COVID – 19.  

When the presidential debate took place in Cleveland, Feliciano worked through his contacts to draw the likes of local TV stations and CNN to do new stories on the perspectives of Northeast Ohio Latinos and the election. He has also provided advice to the statewide organizing committee for LatinOHs, also made up of prominent Latinos from Lorain, Akron, and Toledo.

The group was co-started by Evelyn Rivera, who coordinated with a pair of Latina leaders in Columbus and CincinnatiLorraine Vega, retired Key Bank Foundation executive, joined the statewide and Northeast Ohio planning teams.  Since then, each founder has recruited others within their networks and now boasts 800 members on social media pages such as Facebook. The coalition has been aided by various elected officials, including Cleveland Councilwoman Jasmin Santana and Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge.

“I can’t be more sanguine about her [Lorraine Vega] leadership,” said Feliciano. “She has just been spectacular.”

Over the past two months, the coalition, in Cleveland alone, has conducted three phone banks and a text bank, canvassed in four predominantly Latino voting precincts, distributed 750-yard signs, partnered with a pair of nonprofit organizations and the Biden national campaign on other get out the vote efforts. Similar activities have occurred in other major Ohio cities.

“I would be remiss, if I did not lift up all of the fabulous work that has been led by a group of fabulous young Latinos who have worked tirelessly to actively educate, inspire, engage and register voters in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County,” said Ms. Vega via email, while declining an interview to remain behind-the-scenes. “Using innovative and culture-centric methodology in collaboration with small businesses, churches and many more, they were able to reach many individuals. I think they even collaborated to increase participation in the census.”

Caravansas were also popular in Lorain according to Richard Romero, who urged Latinos to vote between now and election day of Nov. 3rd.  “It’s follow-up time,…the challenge of finding 20 friends, neighbors, and family members to vote now or by election day.”

In Toledo, human resources professional and attorney Ursula Barrera-Richards joined the LatinOHs for Biden/Harris cause and enlisted an organization she leads, the Lucas County Latina Democratic Empowerment Club, a group of emerging Latina community leaders.

“During this presidential election cycle, the Latina Dems wanted to focus on Latino/x engagement in our community,” said Ms. Barrera-Richards. “With all of the vitriol coming from the president, it is important for us to have a voice, be active and be engaged in the presidential campaign. The Latino/x vote may be small compared to other states, but we can make an impact in the swing vote.”

The Ohio group has hosted phone banks during Hispanic Heritage Month, sign distribution pop-up events where they handed out Spanish language #TodosConBiden yard signs, and organized Latino caravans in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.

Latina leaders have also connected with other Ohio counties to get #TodosConBiden signs into the hands of Latino voters in neighboring counties such as Hancock County and Wood County. A final voter engagement effort will be a large Latino “Ridin’ with Biden” caravan on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020 in Wood County, which is still in play in the presidential race. One caravan target will be Perrysburg Heights. Yard signs already are being distributed at coffee shops in Perrysburg and Bowling Green.

Statewide, LatinOHs for Biden-Harris plans a virtual bilingual phone bank on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. The group will provide online phone-banking training, then start calling Ohio voters to encourage them to vote for the Democratic presidential ticket. Anyone who’d like to get involved can reach the organization through its Facebook and Instagram pages.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some members of the cause are Independents and Republicans as well as Democrats. Members from northern Ohio also include Isabel Framer (Akron); Clevelanders Juan Galeano, Ken Dowell, Roberta Duarte, Isabel Galvez, and Jenice Contreras; Mary Santiago (Lorain), Rey Carrión (Lorain), Juanita Senquiz (Lorain), Richard Romero (Lorain), and Joel Arredondo (Lorain); and Tanya Durán (Toledo), Meyling Ruiz (Toledo), and Anita Sánchez Serda (Toledo), to name some examples.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/04/20 05:44:01 -0800.

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