By Barbara Moreno, Digital Coordinator, NCLR
Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R), during an event to try and reach out to Hispanic voters, was asked if he had any Latinos on staff. He started his response with a brief and simple answer of no, but, unfortunately, followed it up with a response reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s “binders of women” comment. Corbett continued to add “If you can find us one [Latino/a], please let me know.”
As a Puerto Rican, who both works for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and lives in the continental United States, I know for a fact that there is a large percentage of Latinos living in or near Pennsylvanian urban centers, with many of them representing the second largest Hispanic American population in the U.S. (Puerto Ricans). In some counties in Pennsylvania, almost 20% of the population is of Hispanic descent. The eight NCLR Affiliates in the area reach tens of thousands of Latinos, and during the 2012 get out the vote and voter education/registration programs, the Civic Engagement team reached over 40,000 Hispanics in Pennsylvania. Through our efforts and Affiliates in the area, NCLR is very aware that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of qualified applicants from which Corbett could choose to be a staffer.
Some people will say, “Well, he has appointed Latinos to state government positions.” To which I ask, “Is that enough?” It is the government that sets the example for diversity in the workforce. Therefore, it is important that politicians find a way for their staff (immediate and not immediate) to reflect America’s growing diversity. Given the current size of the Latino population, it is important that our perspective and experiences are present in our political system in a variety of formats. Staffers spend exorbitant amounts of time in close proximity to high-ranking officials, and it is those officials who are often making the decisions that are affecting our communities. What better way is there to ensure our stories are being told and impacting decision makers than by having someone in their inner circles sharing them for us?
Moreover, having Hispanic Spanish-speaking staffers will make it easier for politicians to reach out to their constituents. Having a staff member that is Latino will allow them to connect better with constituent problems that need to be addressed. This would also help officials be more attentive and supportive to the needs of the growing Hispanic community and possibly win their vote.
People like voting for politicians they feel a connection to, and there is no better way to create that sense of camaraderie than by having a staffer (or staffers) that facilitate communication between elected official and constituent. I suggest that if Corbett wants to be a more connected governor, he should start considering hiring some Latino staffers to help him reach out to the sector of the population that has grown 53% over the past 10 years and will continue to grow whether or not he finds Latinos to hire.