If anything was proven in the last few elections it is the fact that the Latino vote can decide it all. And even though the official 2016 race for the Presidency hasn’t started yet, we are watching many candidates try to gain favor with Latinos through a variety of strategies. In the case of Donald Trump, connecting with Latinos doesn’t appear be a priority, but most of the other candidates are using immigration, jobs, education and even foreign policy to engage Latinos.
The average voters may not notice or care, but those of us who follow these campaigns closely are very curious about who is shaping Latino strategies for the national campaigns. There is one inescapable fact: Very few of those charged with connecting with Latino voters are Latino.
Mike Madrid is a veteran of national political campaigns and sits on the Board of the American Association of Political Consultants. “We believe that if you hire people that understand the community and the culture, the language, the issues, and can communicate and speak to people in the community, we can use that as a way to increase civic participation and turnout among Latino voters.” Madrid, and some of the handful of Latinos active in the AAPC, are launching an ambitious plan to increase the numbers of Latino political consultants by promoting regional forums in cities like Los Angeles. The AAPC is a “white boy’s club,” admits Madrid but that can, and has to, change.
With almost two decades of experience, Silissa Uriarte-Smith says that in the specialized business of political consulting, networking across the race and gender spectrum is necessary to survive. “I straddle both worlds really well, meaning the white world and the Latino world, so a lot of my mentors are white and they taught me the job,” Uriarte-Smith states. She is not an AAPC member, but in her opinion it is imperative to conduct research on the Latino presence in the consulting business in order to empower young people, especially women.
Madrid and Uriarte-Smith are proof of the success that Latinos can achieve as political consultants, and both agree that mentoring is essential; perhaps at its regional forums the AACP could offer training seminars for young Latinos so as to stimulate that greater grassroots political participation that their communities need.
Madrid is working with other Latino consultants to organize a gathering this fall or early next year to gather Southern California Latino political consultants together for panels and workshops focused on professional development and to generate conversations designed to get more Latino political consultants into mainstream political campaigns.
by Guadalupe Vicón