“The Latino vote is going to be crucial on a scale never seen before, at least nationally,” says Sepúlveda, who also serves the administration of President Barack Obama as director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
“Ohio has been a battleground state in the past, but this year it is at the top of the list. The Latino community has really never received as much attention as it should have. However, this year, the Obama campaign is going to do things differently,” promises Sepúlveda.
Sepúlveda’s comments strongly echo those of Ohio Democratic activists Richard Romero and Roberto Torres expressed in last week’s issue of La Prensa.
Romero is a member of the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA) and chaired that body in 2008-2009. Torres, formerly of Toledo and later Canton, is now based in Cleveland.
Sepúlveda stressed that the president’s re-election campaign recognizes that understanding a community is crucial, and that is vital to turning out the Latino vote in November.
“We will use people from within the communities…This can no longer be neglected or taken for granted. We’re going with the local volunteer side because of the energy and passion which they generate,” says Sepúlveda.
That’s where Sepúlveda says a different plan is now needed than was used in the 2008 presidential campaign. This involves giving more campaign responsibilities and decisions to locals instead of leaving it all in the hands of out-of-state campaign staff.
This reinforces another key point made in last week’s La Prensa by both Romero and Torres about the effective use of more local Ohio campaign workers by the president’s re-election campaign team. Sepúlveda recalled this concern as having been expressed to him by Torres in Lorain during CHIP’s Hispanic Leadership Conference.
How will this be implemented by the Democrats in Ohio where at least two out-of-state campaign workers are already on the ground?
Although Sepúlveda would not comment yet on Ohio staffing because he said decisions on staffing in the state still have not been made, he says Ohio said would clearly follow the Florida pattern. There, according to Sepúlveda, local Latinos with strong community ties and with experience in volunteering are already playing key campaign roles.
“This is different from past campaigns. This is the first presidential campaign where they are actively on the ground.
“We hired local folks who know the community and the back yards. That’s never been the way we ran presidential campaigns before,” says Sepúlveda.
Certainly, campaign workers from outside the state are still part of the Ohio campaign apparatus. However, Sepúlveda says they will work side-by-side with people who know the local community and have been through the system before. The out-of-state staffers need to learn from the locals to gain knowledge about local Latino community events and leaders.
“We need to know and be aware of these differences, especially in Ohio where the Puerto Rican influence is greater in Lorain, and where the culture is more influenced by Mexican-Americans in Toledo and Columbus,” explains Sepúlveda.
“The same basic differences in Latino sub-groups are true in Nevada between centers such as Las Vegas and Reno. But this year we are even focusing our efforts heavily on California, where we know we are going to win. Although we’ve ignored California before and taken it for granted, we now have staff on the ground in California.
“If one of our California-based staff persons wants to work Las Vegas, we will let them go there. But we do not let an out-of-state person work the other state area without being part of a team. We will send them into the community with a local from Las Vegas who already knows the lay of the land and has practical knowledge of the neighborhood,” says Sepúlveda, in what could be construed as encouraging news for local Ohio Latinos eager to participate in the campaign process.
During the weekend, the Ohio Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee, the governing body of the party, released a list of those named delegates-at-large to the party’s national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to be held the week of Sept. 3, 2012. The list included several well-known Latinos:
· Baldemar Velásquez, the internationally-renowned advocate for immigration and workers rights and founder and president of FLOC, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO.
· Roberto Torres. The Cleveland-based visionary, advocating urban growth via immigration-friendly policies, immigration reform, and the passage of the DREAM Act.
· Isabel Framer, a member of OCHLA and the founder and principal partner of Language Access Consultants, LLC as well as an Obama appointee to the State Justice Institute.
· Lourdes Barraso de Padilla, a member of OCHLA and executive director of City Year in Columbus, where she plays an active role in organizing that city’s Festival Latino.
Velásquez, Torres, and Framer were all participants in the Lorain Hispanic Leadership Conference, hosted by CHIP—the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress.