“She’s always been an advocate for other Latino officials, she’s been an advocate for Latino issues from way back when,” said Martínez in a telephone interview, who pointed out Ms. Kaptur has been supportive of Latino political candidates over the years.
Ms. Kaptur and Kucinich each are actively and openly courting Latino voters across Ohio’s North Coast, seen to be an important bloc of the electorate for each to stay in Congress. Kucinich met with other Latino leaders over lunch at El Camino Real restaurant a couple of weeks ago. That audience was comprised of small business owners and local government leaders, including Gary Johnson, vice chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party.
DREAM Act may make a difference
One difference between the two candidates involves the DREAM Act, which would provide educational opportunities for the children of undocumented immigrants. Ms. Kaptur voted against the bill, while Kucinich supported it. President Barack Obama called for passage of the DREAM Act in his State of the Union speech earlier this month.
“She took a very harsh hand on the DREAM Act, in terms of looking at it comprehensively, not just terror and Latinos,” said Martínez. “That’s important, because looking at it from a federal level, it’s all about immigration in general. She’s always been looking out for us and not trying to single us out, but integrate us into the community.”
The Toledo City Council member disputed a perceived split among Toledo-area Latinos toward the two congressional candidates.
“I don’t believe it’s split here locally. I think right now there’s going to be a lot of confusion over who we can vote for and who we can’t,” said Martínez, a reference to the redistricting process, which split Toledo into two different Congressional districts—with one seat held by Ms. Kaptur and the Fifth District seat currently held by Republican Bob Latta. “I think this just adds to the confusion. While I don’t think there’s a deep divide in our community, but I certainly think there is a lot of confusion.”
Martínez went so far as to allege that Kucinich was led around Toledo earlier this month by a “transplant,” a reference to former Toledo Public Schools board member Robert Torres, who now lives and works in the Cleveland area, which is home territory for the Kucinich camp. He accused Torres of “political malfeasance in order to gain support here.” Martínez admitted he has never met or spoken to Kucinich.
Torres shrugged off the comments of Martínez, maintaining he still has strong family ties in Toledo, even though he has pursued professional opportunities elsewhere. He stated the new Ninth congressional district offers a unique opportunity to unite Latinos across northern Ohio, not divide them.
“The message that Latinos in Northeast Ohio and Lorain are trying to convey to Latinos in Toledo is that we are now one large district,” Torres said. “It really is in the best interest of Latinos in all of our cities to begin the dialogue and be able to share our common issues that bring us together. It really is more about uniting the Latino community than dividing it.”
Last Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, Congresswoman Kaptur was noticeably absent from major festivities at First Friday at the Sophia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, Toledo, while Congressman Kucinich was present with his wife, Elizabeth. However, Kaptur’s aide, Theresa Morris-Ramos, attended.
The two Democrats will square off in debate and discussion at a pair of late February events in communities between Cleveland and Toledo—areas between each candidate’s stronghold that likely will determine the race in little more than a month. Cleveland native and fellow Democrat Graham Veysey, who is seeking to unseat both Congressional representatives, also will be in attendance at both events.
Both candidates are confirmed to appear at a roundtable question-and-answer session sponsored by the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP) on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the St. Joseph’s Community Center, 201 W. 21st St. in Lorain, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Suburban Toledo Republican Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, one of two GOP candidates for the Congressional seat, also is confirmed to attend.
The following evening, Thursday, Feb. 23, Ms. Kaptur and Kucinich will participate in a debate in Sandusky.