By E.A. Barrera
Campaigning in San Diego on October 12, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante told supporters that the biggest hurdle to increasing the influence of Latinos in California was their lack of participation in the electoral process.
“We have precincts in California where as few as 40 percent of the eligible voters bother to register to vote. In San Diego, some precincts with large Latino populations only saw 20 percent of those who were eligible to vote go to the polls in the last election. What this means is that the people we elect to represent us in government are disproportionately selected by a smaller group of people. The interests of Latinos are not being adequately addressed as a result,” said Bustamante.
Speaking to voters at events in Mission Hills and the College area near San Diego State, Bustamante also blasted the priorities of some liberal activists, telling supporters it was more important to elect representatives who would serve their constituent’s interests than focus energies on ballot initiatives.
“In an important election year like this, voters who want to see real change in policy need to change the people who decide policy. It is the elected representatives who make the decisions that affect people’s lives - that affect the quality of life we have when it comes to government policy,” said Bustamante.
Bustamante noted the large protest marches in San Diego and across California in favor of immigrant rights last Spring, but questioned what historical impact they would have if Latino voting did not increase in future elections.
“Will they have discovered the enormous power of their community, and refuse to slink silently into the shadows of our political system. Will the marches of 2006 be remembered as an aberration? A momentary spike in Latino political participation that died out as quickly as it began? Or, will these marches be remembered for something far greater, something historic? I believe these marches will make a permanent mark on our nation only if the same passion and power that led millions to the streets can lead millions to the ballot box,” said Bustamante.
Bustamante, the first Latino Lieutenant Governor in California history is seeking to become the first Insurance commissioner of Latino descent in the state’s history. He is running against Republican Steve Poisner, a wealthy businessman and electrical engineer, who has waged an aggressive campaign. The position is currently held by Democrat John Garamendi, who is running for Lieutenant Governor.
Bustamante said the Latino dropout rate in California high schools was too high and said Latinos were under-represented on the campuses of the University of California and California State University systems. He blamed the Republican administrations of President George W. Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the rising costs of college tuition and fee increases, which he said “priced more and more young people out of higher education.”
“We’ve extended health insurance to more of California’s children, but we’re still a long way from the universal health care that all of California’s children deserve,” noted Bustamante.
He blasted Schwarzenegger for comments the Governor made last Spring praising the so-called “Minutemen,” a group who patrolled the California/Mexico border seeking to capture those they considered to be illegally entering the United States.
“Even President Bush has said the Minutemen are a bunch of vigilantes whose operation threads on the borderline of legality,” noted Bustamante. “Our border issues need to be addressed by the federal government, not a bunch of goons.”
Bustamante said that as Insurance Commissioner, he would call for lowering auto insurance rates as prescribed in 1988s Proposition 103.
“The safest drivers should have the lowest rates, regardless of where they live. When voters passed Proposition 103 in 1988, they expected good drivers to have lower rates. I do not support zip codes or credit scoring schemes. John Garamendi, the current Democratic Insurance Commissioner, created a pro-consumer method of setting auto insurance rates - a person’s driving record. As this year’s Democratic candidate, I’ll do the same,” said Bustamante.
Bustamante said California needed a better system of offering affordable health insurance, insisting that Californians currently paid more than other regions for prescription drugs and other health needs.
“We pay 50 percent more for the same drugs and twice what other industrial countries pay for healthcare. We need to create a simple process to buy drugs using our purchasing power. We should negotiate a lower price, just like business does, when you buy in quantity,” said Bustamante. “The state needs to manage health-care better. We currently have several agencies that are responsible for health insurance. Consumers lose when companies can shop around for the friendliest regulatory body. When everyone’s in charge, no one’s in charge. We need one person who is accountable to the voters.”
In an issue which touched San Diego voters close to home as the third anniversary of the 2003 Cedar, Paradise, and Otay fires approaches, Bustamante said that Insurance companies who failed to pay-out, or under-paid on a policy after an emergency, were misusing the public trust.
“When you enter a contract in good faith, pay your premiums and then need your insurance in a tragic situation, the insurer and the policy must meet its part of the contract. It’s not fair to sell a policy that people depend on, require the consumer to pay for years and then decline to pay or cancel the policy for a legitimate claim. I will fight to protect consumers as the Insurance Commissioner,” said Bustamante.