Latino Votes Crucial in Upcoming Mayoral Election

Thatiana Diaz

In the wake of the city’s democratic primaries, in which Bill de Blasio emerged victorious, the city’s major candidates are looking to gain every vote possible. Experts say Hispanics could make up nearly a quarter of all potential voters this November, proof of which lies in candidates’ heavy focus on this crucial population. According to the latest Census, more than half of all residents identify themselves as Hispanic in the Bronx alone. Of the city’s 2.4 million Latinos, half are citizens over 18. While the city’s elections board does not track voter registrations by ethnicity, Hispanics are expected to have a significant impact on the November election.

Latino voters have never been seen as more important. In the 2009 mayoral race, exit polls showed 21 percent of voters identified as Hispanic. The National Institute for Latino Policy reported that this number was expected to climb to nearly 30 percent for this year’s Democratic primary–placing them roughly on equivalence with African-American participation.

Aware of how important the votes are, candidates this year are frequently seen at events targeted to Latinos. Some attended the National Puerto Rican Day Parade runs along Fifth Avenue every June. And some rushed to the podium to speak during a ceremony in May to name a portion of Broadway as Juan Rodriguez Way, in honor of a Dominican man who is thought to have been New York’s first non-Indian settler. Other candidates walk every week in Latino areas of Queens and the Bronx to greet voters. Some have met in private with the Hispanic Federation, an umbrella organization for Latino nonprofit agencies. Bill Thompson, who quit the mayoral race and conceded to Bill de Blasio, seems to have made some of the biggest headway in at least securing key endorsements, encompassing both Dominican and Puerto Rican backgrounds that the vast majority of Latino voters will also share. Candidates are looking to Hispanic residents as they try to scrounge up votes. But they face several challenges, including the fact that the city’s Latino population represents a hodgepodge of communities: Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans among them.

“This is the great X-factor in this election,” said Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio, who counts himself along with the other candidates who have been making frequent forays into Latino neighborhoods, shaking hands with voters and often greeting them in Spanish.

“This is a community that is politically independent in the sense of being open minded, and a big, big piece of the vote,” de Blasio added. “And we are making it very central to our strategy.”

At this point, though, there is no outright winner among the throng of Democratic candidates.  Angelo Falcón of the National Institute for Latino Policy told Politicker: “They’re divided; they’re all over the place supporting different candidates. We have something that is different from years back, the last couple of elections. It’s very more reminiscent of how things used to be a long time ago in New York City.”

Sophomore Natalie Pena, has remained unswayed by the overzealous efforts of the candidates. She said she hadn’t yet decided who had her support.

Bill de Blasio will face Republican nominee Joe Lhota on Nov. 5.