Latino vote is battleground for Boxer, Fiorina

More than 20 percent of California’s registered voters are designated Hispanic or Latino.  Based on recent voting history, the Barbara Boxer campaign expects to win two-thirds or more of these voters in November, and the Republican Party seems to be doing everything in its power to put this important voting block in the Democrats’ hands. 

Republicans have dug a deep hole with many Latinos by taking a hard line on immigration reform, supporting Arizona’s controversial (and now largely nullified) anti-immigration law, and opening the possibility of changing or repealing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which makes anyone born in the United States a citizen, no matter what the status of their parents. 

These actions, when combined with the existing Democratic leanings of the Latino population, give Boxer a 55 percent to 32 percent lead among this voting group according to the latest Field Poll.  But, Fiorina hasn’t given up on Latino voters, having received the support of former George W. Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and formed Amigos de Carly – a coalition of Latino leaders backing the Fiorina campaign. 

Boxer meantime announced the endorsement of a coalition of 100 Latino leaders, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Boxer opposes the Arizona law and does not support the proposal to consider amending the Constitution to prevent so-called “Anchor Babies” whose U.S. birth helps ensure that the parents avoid deportation. 

Boxer is also a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act that will provide a path to citizenship for the children of undocumented workers who have graduated from college. 

Fiorina may attempt to link Boxer to the failure of the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and even blame her for scuttling the effort by insisting that any guest worker program include wage protections to prevent exploitation.  But this scenario is more than three years old, and Boxer has since given her unconditional support to immigration reform in a letter to President Obama from herself, Dianne Feinstein and 14 other Senate Democrats. 

Both candidates are focusing on the Central Valley – one of the nation’s largest agricultural production areas.  The Fiorina campaign will point to high unemployment among Latinos in the Central Valley, attempting to lay the blame on Democratic policies.  But Rose Kapolczynski, Boxer Campaign Manager, has already accused Fiorina of “laying off 30,000 workers and shipping jobs overseas” while she was head of Hewlett-Packard Corporation. 

On the other hand, according to Kapolczynski, Boxer is “working to create jobs here in California.” 

It’s clear that both sides consider the Latino vote crucial to the success of a Senatorial campaign in California.  But whether the weight of national Republican anti-immigration sentiment provides a boost to Boxer or ends up as meaningless noise from cable news outlets is yet to be determined.