Latino voters key to Western states

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With the Nov. 4 presidential election just weeks away, a monumental battle is heating up in a few crucial swing states, as some 9 million Latino voters prepare to cast ballots which could be the deciding factor for an Obama win.

“Well over 60 percent of Latino voters are supporting Obama — closer to 66 percent now,” Jose Laluz, chairperson of Latinos for Obama, told the World last month. Laluz, who is also with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been campaigning in Colorado and New Mexico.

“The right wing is pulling all its dirty tricks even in the Latino community,” he said. “We all realize that Bush used appeals to ‘family values,’ religion and the sanctity of marriage, to get white workers and Reagan Democrats to back him last time. They are using the same tactics in the Latino communities.”

“We find they are waging an especially big push against Obama in the Mexican communities in Colorado and New Mexico,” he added.

“They spread their lies in Spanish just as well as they spread them in English,” said Laluz, citing TV and newspaper ads for McCain in Western states.

The Obama campaign is telling Latinos about McCain’s terrible stands on the economy and about the Republicans’ anti-immigrant positions, he said. “We are showing how the companies and outfits that exploit Latino workers are the people behind McCain.”

Obama activists are registering voters and developing lists of tens of thousands of Latino supporters that they will make sure get to the polls on Election Day, he said.

Bush won a significant percent of the Latino vote in 2004. If John Kerry had won Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, he would be president, Democrats note. Today the margin of victory in these states is in the Latino vote, they say.

Polls across the country indicate that Latinos are fed up with the Bush administration and the Republican Party represented by McCain and see Obama as the person to change course for the better.

A record-breaking turnout of more than 9 million Latino voters is expected this year compared with 7.6 million in 2004, says USA Today.

Tiffany Fiser, AFL-CIO Labor 2008 coordinator in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, has been knocking on doors of union households six days a week. Many voters she comes across are Latinos.

“We’re seeing across the board that people are hurting when it comes to paying their mortgages, affording gas prices or the lack of health care,” said Fiser. “They understand the difference between the candidates, and labor households are really tired and want a change,” she said.

“I truly believe that New Mexico will go for Obama and we will win because our unions, community organizations and volunteers on the ground working here did our part to win,” Fiser said.

plozano @pww.org. John Wojcik contributed to this story.