November 7, 2008

Latino voters made a big difference in Tuesday’s elections

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

As expected, last Tuesday Latinos in San Diego County went out to the polls in record numbers, thanks to several campaigns that focused on getting young Latinos and immigrants that recently became citizens to register to vote.

Around the South Bay lots of Latinos could be seen, many of them voting for the first time.

But just as many races were decided quckly thanks to the participation of Latinos in the elections, others, such as the race for the City of Chula Vista City Council 3 at deadline time are just too close to call.

Elections poll worker Lucia Diaz, right, helps Cruz Monroy with her voting materials at the Our Lady of Angels church in San Diego, California during the 2008 general elections. Photo - David Maung

In that race, candidate Pamela Bensoussan is just about 119 votes behind her opponent but there are still about 220,000 provisional and mail ballots to be counted, as many as 14,000 of those belong in Chula Vista.

So on Wednesday Bensoussan said she’s not giving up and she still has the hope that she will be victorious in the city council race for seat number 3.

“I think that I have a very good chance of closing the gap, as each vote was being counted I was gaining votes and my opponent was losing. I’m sure that as they continue to count the votes the race is going to go in my direction,” said Bensoussan.

She said that the Latino vote was an important factor in her campaign, adding that as founder of the Northwest Chula Vista Civic Association she has worked with the Latino community for years.

“I feel that Latino voters were very supportive of my candidacy,” said Bensoussan, who was endorsed by La Prensa San Diego.

For this race, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters has announced that it will finish counting absentee ballots by this Friday. Then the counting of provisional ballots will begin. It is expected that the final count will be made public and results made official by November 14.

“I’m hopeful I will win,” Ben-soussan said. In case she doesn’t win, she said she will continue with her social activism working for the residents of Northwestern Chula Vista.

Around the South Bay, several Latinos were elected or reelected.

Pearl Quiñones was reelected to her third term in the Sweetwater Union High School District board. She was also endorsed by La Prensa San Diego. Bertha Lopez took the seat for Sweetwater from incumbent Jaime Mercado. Lopez is currently a board member at the Chula Vista Elementary School District. She will leave a vacant seat. The district couldn’t be reach at deadline for comment on how its board will replace Lopez, either by appointment or special election.

Also for the Chula Vista Elementary School District, former San Diego Police chief and incumbent David Bejarano was elected to the board for the first time. He had the seat because he had been appointed by the board. Newcomer Russell Coronado was also elected to the Chula Vista school board after a 17 year career in education. Coronado was endorsed by La Prensa San Diego.

Among the Latinos who didn’t win in this election is San Diego City attorney Mike Aguirre, who has said he will return to private practice as a lawyer.

Tuesday morning, Latinos could be seen at several polling places around the South Bay. Many were first time voters, such as Arnulfo Manriquez, who became a U.S. citizen this year.

“I feel very excited of voting for the first time, after living in the United States since I was a child,” said Manriquez, who is a Mexicali native and who had been a permanent resident for more than 20 years. He voted at Olympian High School in Chula Vista.

The majority of Latino voters who were asked by La Prensa San Diego who they voted for on Tuesday, said they voted for Democrat and now President-elect Barack Obama.

“I became a U.S. citizen this year, and I feel that I’m playing an important role in writing history,” said Elizabeth Pastrana, who said she wanted to serve as a role model for other Latinas and encourage them to become U.S. citizens.

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