However, the Hispanic Roundtable planned to use the Latino voting bloc’s powerful status as an election game-changer to raise “important and critical issues.” A panel of young Latinos [Young Latino Network, or YLN] brought posed questions to the candidates during the forum.
“I thought the participation by the young Latinos was outstanding. They had their own lists and asked substantive questions related to the economy, education, and immigration,” said José Feliciano, Sr., chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable. “They covered the waterfront on the issues.”
More than 300 people attended the forum, which is the third one held by the Hispanic Roundtable. Feliciano called it “extraordinarily well-received by the candidates” whom he said called it the biggest campaign event they’ve attended.
Feliciano stated he was very happy at the turnout of local candidates, as well as two whom are seeking Ohio Supreme Court seats, including John P. O’Donnell. The event also was attended by U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur and her challenger, Richard May. But he “was disappointed” at the absence of the two major candidates for Ohio governor.
He explained that Republican incumbent Gov. John Kasich “tried to work it out,” but the Hispanic Roundtable “never heard back” from Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald’s campaign, even though he hails from suburban Cleveland. Toledo Latina Anita Rios, a Green Party candidate, was the only candidate for Ohio governor to appear at the Hispanic Roundtable event.
Two candidates vying to succeed FitzGerald as Cuyahoga County Executive met with the crowd. Former Ohio House Speaker and Democratic state Rep. Armond Budish is being opposed by Republican Cuyahoga County Councilman Jack Schron.
“I care deeply about the people of this community. We need to make sure people are working. We need to create jobs and we need to make sure the jobs are throughout our community,” Budish said. “That’s what I will do as county executive.”
The former House Speaker stated he helped to push minority hiring through casino legislation to ensure Latinos and others would help build and run the four casinos across the state. The Ohio Senate, at the last minute, agreed to leave the requirement in the casino bill. He stated that as county executive, the county has a role to play in helping small business owners secure capital to grow their operations.
Schron pointed to several endorsements he has received from Cleveland-area newspapers, which called him a “job creator who believes in inclusion.”
“They came and they saw Hispanics working side-by-side with African-Americans,” he said.
Schron has served as president and CEO of Jergens, Inc. for nearly 30 years and helped co-found an internet education business called Tooling University. He stated he has the background of running a company with 450 employees, so he’s more than qualified to be county executive, a position which oversees 7,000 employees and a $1.3 billion annual budget.
The only positions taken by the Hispanic Roundtable at the nonpartisan forum was to pledge its support for Issue 4, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Bond issue, and Issue 6, a levy that supports Cuyahoga Community College. Feliciano stated more Latino students attend Tri-C than any other public college or university in the region.
The mission of the nonprofit Hispanic Roundtable is to “act as a catalyst to empower the Hispanic community to become full partners in the economic, education, political, civic, and social life of Greater Cleveland.”
“I think it [the forum] helped educate and empower our community and held our public officials accountable to our community and our issues,” said Feliciano, who stated his goal is to have presidential candidates attend the forum in 2016, which would trump the mid-term election event staged last week.
Both parties recognize the growing influence of the Hispanic community, as well as Ohio’s status as a make-or-break election state. According to the Hispanic Roundtable, the Buckeye state’s population increased by 183, 364 residents between 2000 and 2010—nearly two thirds of those were Latinos.
“Ohio’s current Latino population numbers is just over 364,000. If all Latinos lived in the same county, it would be the state’s ninth largest of the 88 counties.” According to the Hispanic Roundtable, Cuyahoga County alone has 28,485 Hispanic registered voters—which represents a 15 percent increase since 2011.
“In a close election, we can be the balance of power. We can be the constituency that gets it over the top,” said Feliciano of the Latino vote.
On the Internet: http://www.convencionhispana.org