By Fidel “Butch” Montoya
The Red Wave of the Tea Party missed Colorado as it stood in stark contrast to the Red States in the Rocky Mountain region. Colorado elected a Democratic Governor, electing Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper who crushed two challengers, the infamous undocumented immigrant crusader Tom Tancredo, and political unknown Dan Maes. Tancredo ran as a third party candidate, who was unable to sell his extremist views to Colorado voters, and hopefully has reached the end of his extremist political career.
Colorado also elected appointed Senator Michael Bennet to a full six year term, squeaking out a victory over Tea Party favorite Weld County D. A. Ken Buck. Buck was expected to win according to the political pundits who felt Bennet would be unable to withstand the Red Wave that drown Democratic control of the House, and came within four or five candidates of submerging the Senate in a Tea Party tsunami.
While Republicans were able to defeat two Democratic Congressional candidates, Democrats were able to re-elect three Congressional incumbents in spite of an angry atmosphere toward President Obama’s agenda and Democratic incumbents.
Looking at what happened in other states on election night to Democratic incumbents and candidates, Colorado withstood the anger and Tea Party addiction. Colorado Democratic candidates were able to hold their own on a night that President Obama even admitted was not a good night for his administration, telling the nation, “I feel bad.”
Senator Bennet fought the outside money that pushed Ken Buck to the brink of victory with a get out the vote strategy that even pushed his own voter projections beyond his own expectations. In many bell weather counties, Bennet was winning with larger voter percentages that came out to help Senator Bennet defeat Buck with about a total of 15,000 votes or less. While many national news media refused to call the race on election night, KUSA-TV political consultant, Floyd Ciruli called the race in Bennet’s favor on Wednesday morning after a long night of analyzing voter results.
Latino voters played a pivotal role in several key races for Democrats. In Colorado, Bennet pulled 81% of the Latino vote, which gave Bennet the edge he needed to defeat Buck. Polling by Latino Decisions projected that Latinos in Nevada supported Senator Reid with 90% of the Latino vote. California Barbara Boxer enjoyed the support of 86% of Latino voters.
All in all, it was a night that demonstrated that when Latino voters are engaged, they can make the difference. It was clear the misdirected attempt by GOP Latino operatives to discourage Latino voters from going to the polls to vote, backfired and instead, angered Latinos into turning out to vote and supporting three important Senatorial races that kept control of the Senate in Democratic hands.
Without strong Latino get out the vote strategies, there is no question that Reid, Boxer, and Bennet would have been defeated by their challengers. While political pundits have claimed that Latino voters could change the outcome of elections, there is no doubt these three senatorial races dynamically demonstrated the strength of the Latino voter. No longer just a political theory, Latino voter participation is now considered a potent political weapon that other candidates will seek to duplicate in the future if they want to win the tight race.
As we face the uncertainty and dynamic change in political power in Congress, Latinos are positioned to play a key role in determining and changing the outcome of voter expectations.
While the Tea Party influence also played a key role in electing Republican Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Republican Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Latinos also demonstrated that they do not speak with one voice or are of one political persuasion. Martinez was elected as the first Hispanic female Republican Governor. Sandoval defeated Rory Reid, Senator Reid’s son for the governorship of Nevada. Rubio, who claims to be a son of exiled Cuban immigrants, is considered one of the strongest foes of immigration reform.
In spite of political party or favorite political beverage, Latinos are positioned on the national stage to govern and bring about change for the Latino community. Latino voter turn out in the future will need to be a priority for any group wishing to change the outcome of elections. While major emphasis has been given to voter registration, it is clear that we cannot neglect to follow through and engage in broad based get out the Latino vote in future elections.
If we neglect to push Latino voter participation in 2012, we will be failing to utilize the most important voter outcome weapon that has shown in the mid-term elections, that the Latino voters do make a difference.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H. S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years as a journalist. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; and in law enforcement as the Manager of Public Safety, responsible for the Denver Police Department, Denver Fire Department, and Denver Sheriff Department for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.