Latino voters roared and state will be better for it

No, there was no Latino candidate on the ballot in the statewide races Nov. 6, but 2018 may have been just a warm-up for four years from now.

Latino community and business leaders are organizing to take advantage of increased voter registration and turnout of Hispanic voters in the midterm elections. And that is a fine outcome, at last, for a group that represents 16 percent of Connecticut's population and has been a long time getting to the point where it can negotiate from strength with a governor and administration.

Democratic Governor-elect Ned Lamont won office largely on a strong turnout in cities, where the majority of Hispanic voters live. The state Senate, which had been evenly split at 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats, now has three Hispanic senators among the Democrats' new majority of  23 to 13. All the Latinos in the House of Representatives won re-election, for a total of about 7 percent of the chamber.

Ready to capitalize on those results is the newly formed Connecticut Latino Gubernatorial Appointments Task Force, modeled on a similar effort in New Jersey last year. Lamont, who has said he will cast a wide net for highly qualified candidates to serve in his administration, will be getting a list of Hispanic candidates from the task force.

That's a logical next step following respectable primary showings by labor organizer and political newcomer Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, who contested the veteran Susan Bysiewicz for the Democrats' 2018 lieutenant governor nomination; and Art Linares, who ran for the Republicans' state treasurer nomination rather than seeking to keep his seat in the 33rd Senate district. Neither made it to the final ticket, but they did make their point: Connecticut's Latino population is producing not just more registered voters but credible candidates who appealed to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic voters in both major parties.

On Tuesday Lamont held a policy summit at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. ECSU has a strong Hispanic enrollment, and its widely respected president, Elsa Nuñez, is co-chairing the gubernatorial transition team. In the General Assembly, Rep. Chris Soto of New London, the Democrat re-elected to represent the 39th district, has emerged as a go-to voice for statewide Latino issues.

The state's Hispanic citizens will clearly be able to wield more clout, given the outcome of the recent election. However, the urgent matters to be faced by those who were elected this year will not bear tags labeling them as "Latino" or "black" issues or belonging to any other group. The state's finances, as the prime example, will affect every one who lives or works in Connecticut.

The Day welcomes the involvement of civic-minded citizens taking their role in state government and policy making and urges the Latino bloc to use its newfound bargaining power to strengthen the whole system for the good of all.

Two weeks after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, historian Mark Lilla wrote an article for The New York Times asserting that identity politics was too much about difference and not enough about what Americans have in common. The article has been widely circulated and debated ever since.

Lilla's assessment may at first be unwelcome to a group that is finally feeling its political strength, as Connecticut Hispanics now are. They may proudly feel their time has come to wave the flag of victory, and so it has.

Yet Lilla noted that both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton succeeded in a way that should apply to all leaders at all times: "by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another." 

Everyone in Connecticut is in this together as well, and the help of the newly engaged Hispanic voters and leaders is exactly what is needed.

  

 

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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