Lorain, Jan. 22, 2012: The race for the newly redrawn Lake Erie-bordering 9th district seat (from Toledo to Cleveland) is heating up as new local political officials and Latino leaders speak out and publically endorse a candidate.
Several Cuyahoga County Democratic leaders have recently endorsed U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland), and several Democratic political leaders from Lorain have endorsed U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) this past Sunday. Toledo’s political leaders are mostly expected to endorse Kaptur because of her ties to the city.
But many Latino leaders throughout Cuyahoga, Lorain, and Lucas Counties are rooting against Miss Kaptur because she voted “No” on the DREAM Act, back in December of 2010. Mr. Kucinich voted in favor of the same bill.
The bill proposed to grant first residency and then citizenship to qualifying undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children, of good moral character, and enrolled in a university/college or serving in the military among other requirements.
Miss Kaptur has previously said she voted against the DREAM Act because it singles out Latino immigrants, and it does not solve all the immigration issues. The bill would allow immigration officials to more aggressively target the parents of those DREAMers. She said the country does not need a “piecemeal” bill but instead needs comprehensive immigration reform.
Six out of 10 Democrats serving from Ohio including Kucinich voted in favor of the DREAM Act in December of 2010. The other four Democrats including Kaptur voted against it, and all eight Republicans from Ohio voted against it. The bill passed in the House but then failed in the Senate.
Kaptur’s reasons for voting against the DREAM Act have failed to convince some Latino leaders, with some noting that the bill’s wording targeted all immigrant youth and not just Latinos.
Roberto Torres, a former member of the Toledo School Board and current owner of a Cleveland consulting firm, said he supports Kucinich because of the congressman’s approval of the DREAM Act among other reasons. Torres said he has known Kucinich since back when they both attended Bowling Green State University, and has personally witnessed how the congressman helped the Latino community in Cleveland.
Torres said education is an important issue for him; the large percentage of Latinos dropping out of high school upsets him.
Torres said all young people including the undocumented should have access to education.
“The DREAM Act is an opportunity,” Torres said “(Kucinich) supported the DREAM act, and that to me shows he has a concern for our community. That’s where the two candidates contrast.”
In response to those who say the DREAM Act was a “bad legislation” Torres said “legislation is never perfect. Somebody has to take the first step that leads to education, and immigration reform. It’s a place to start.”
On other issues:
Mr. Kucinich, 65, (D-10th district) an 8-term congressman and former Cleveland mayor with two unsuccessful runs for president, supports abortion rights, is greatly antiwar condemning both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and proposed laws for universal healthcare.
Miss Kaptur, 65, (D-9th district) a 15-term congresswoman opposes federal funding of abortions except for cases of rape or incest. She has also opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because she said it cost the U.S. jobs. She opposed the Iraq War, but she supported the Afghanistan War.
Lorain city officials support Kaptur
At the opening of Kaptur’s downtown campaign office at 642 Broadway, Lorain, Jan. 22, 2012, several Lorain city officials announced they endorse her.
Lorain city officials endorsing Miss Kaptur include: Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer, the City Council President Joel Arredondo, Law Director Pat Riley, Auditor Ronald L. Mantini, Treasurer Karen Shawver, and city council members Eddie Edwards, Dennis Flores, Brian Gates, Dan Given, Anne Molnar, Tony Richardson, Bret Schuster, and Myroslaw “Mickey” Silecky.
Lorain officials said the congressional redistricting by state Republicans prompted by new Census numbers is unfair, and will force longtime friends Kaptur and Kucinich to square off in the March 6 Democratic primary.
The new 9th district stretches from Toledo to Cleveland to include parts of Cuyahoga, Lorain, Ottawa, Erie, and Lucas counties. The city of Lorain could be decisive because neither candidate has previously represented it—Lorain also is 25-plus percent Latino.
Also running as a Democrat for that seat is Graham Veysey, 29, of Cleveland.
Republican candidates for the district include Steven Kraus of Huron and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher of Springfield Township.
“Kaptur is a true advocate for our community; She’s a pragmatic leader,” said Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer. “She’s respected by her colleagues on both (party) sides.”
Ritenauer said he endorsed her because she has represented Toledo and parts of Lorain County, and would best understand “what we see in our neighborhoods; She understands the nuts and bolts of urban issues.”
For many Lorain officials, Kaptur’s seniority in Congress set her apart.
Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo and Ritenauer said Kaptur would more likely than Kucinich bring back money to the county because Kaptur is the second ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for writing annual federal appropriations or spending bills.
Ritenauer said Lorain has received cuts in state funding, and her role on the powerful committee would help secure funds for the county.
Lorain officials have said the city needs to work on job creation and retention. Ritenauer said Lorain needs funds for providing city services including repairing roads and restoring vacant or derelict houses, and improving the underdeveloped waterfront. He added he wants to establish a Lorain County land bank, a proposal for dealing with foreclosed homes.
Latinos make up 25.2 percent of the total population of Lorain city according to the 2010 Census, and issues on immigration and the DREAM act are very important for many Latinos.
Ritenauer said he was not aware of the details surrounding Kaptur voting against the DREAM Act back in Dec. 2010, but said he stood by his decision of supporting her.
“Sometimes these bills are filled with so many things, and you can’t vote ‘yes’ on a certain part and ‘no’ on another part,” Ritenauer said “But by no means does she agree with the far right on immigration issues.”
Ritenauer added “I’m certain she’s supportive of all ethnicities and immigration.”
Arredondo said he agrees with Kaptur that the DREAM Act does not fully deal with the immigration issue.
“It doesn’t benefit our population. The way it’s written is bad legislation,” said Arredondo “It targets Latinos. There are more immigrants, not just Latinos, in this country.”
Arredondo continued “We have to do more than get a few crumbs thrown at us. The way the legislation is now, there’s no way it will pass. They have to rewrite it.”
Arredondo said Kaptur “She brings a lot more to the table, has a great track record, and is no stranger to the area.”
Lorain and other Latino leaders support Kucinich
But other Lorain officials and Latino leaders have voiced their support for Kucinich.
Richard Romero, a native of Lorain and a magazine director, said he supports Kucinich because he appears to be more sincere about helping the Latino community.
Romero said he like many other Latinos are supporting Mr. Kucinich because he voted in favor of the DREAM Act but also because “(Kucinich) takes pride in speaking in Spanish, and has a staff that is reflective of the community.” Romero noted that Mr. Kucinich’s staff has a Latino member that is his Hispanic Liaison, Luis Gómez, and has an African-American member.
“He’s the people’s candidate. He’s a fighter for the people. He said he sees the seat not as his but as the seat for the people,” Romero said.
Romero also responded to Kaptur’s supporters who say her role in the Appropriations committee gives her the advantage over Kucinich.
“People need to understand who’s going to be there for the working class and the Latino community,” Romero said “The fact that she voted against the DREAM act, that’s inexcusable. Why say you would vote for her because she sits on a powerful committee although she voted in a way that hurts our community,” he said.
Romero added: “The DREAM Act was not perfect but it was the first step.”
Romero said deporting “all the 12 to 13 million undocumented immigrants” would be an unrealistic goal and would greatly hurt the economy, as many of those immigrants work in jobs that often other U.S. citizens refuse to do.
He said “These immigrants are here. Do you want them to not finish their education?”
Romero said instead of shipping jobs overseas, “Let’s build a strong workforce and put money into the country.”
The solutions to the immigration issue continues to be a hot topic, and for many Latinos the candidates’ views on immigration or the DREAM Act could be their deciding factor when casting a vote.
Regardless of the political party or candidate choice, Torres called upon all Latinos, both citizens and the undocumented, to become organized and vote.
“It’s our responsibility to exercise the right that we have. Let’s vote for the person that best represents our community,” Torres said.