January 13, 2006

Editorial:

City Council Races Send Strong Signals of an Emerging Political Awareness Amongst Hispanic Candidates!

To say that it has been an interesting political week would be putting it mildly.

It has now become evident that “The Sleeping Giant” has awaken and has sent a strong signal that we, the Mexican American aka Latino-Hispanic has come awake! The politics of taking the Latino Voter for granted will be done at heavy risk! The time for the Hispanic or Mexican American Voters to be taken for granted or ignored will now be a most risky venture. The image of the sleepy Mexican typifying the Latino Voters is shattered!

In those days, as the Hispanic community fought for self determination, the perception was that if you were Hispanic you could not win unless you portrayed yourself as a “converso” i.e., anything other than Hispanic. This was the tact Inzunza, Sr., took when he turned his back on his friends and the Chicano movement, in particular the Committee on Chicano Rights and disassociated himself from his past and his Community. The Chicano/Hispanic Community, it was said, in those days, was “A Sleeping Giant” that was still slumbering.

The Inzunza family began their precipitous climb up the political ladder with the election of Ralph Inzunza, Sr., to the National City, City Council in 1988. Inzunza Sr. got elected with heavy Anglo support and this set the parameters by which the Inzunza family operated and the template set forth for other Hispanic politicians of the time.

For many within the Chicano movement, it became a matter of not “if” but “when” this type of political philosophy catches up with the Inzunza machine? We now have our answer. Topping the news for the week was Nick Inzunza, who announced he was stepping back from the 79th Assembly race. He announced that he would not seek re-election as Mayor of National City (his term expires at the end of the year.) He had lost most of the Mexican American vote.

During this mini-dynasty of the Inzunza family the political landscape of the Chicano/Hispanic community was changing. In the decade of the 90’s and into 2006 the Chicano/Hispanic community was growing up, politically speaking. Not only were there more of us, but, more Hispanics were getting involved and getting elected. The population and the number of voters are growing at a rapid pace. Over this decade the Hispanic community became the majority minority race in California and over the next ten years will become the majority community in population. The template set forth by Ralph Inzunza, Sr., is no longer valid.

At the same time, being a Chicano/Hispanic and running for political office was no longer an oxymoron. Hispanic politicians were starting to look to their community for political support and the issues of the day demanded that they would have to address these issues from a Hispanic perspective. We have seen this in State Senator Gil Cedillo’s efforts to get immigrants licenses to drive cars safely in California and in the election of Antonio Villarraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles.

This brings us to the campaign of Lorena Gonzalez for San Diego City Council seat District 2. Unless there is a massive advantage for Ms Gonzalez in the 25000 provisional votes that still need to be counted, Ms Gonzalez will have lost her bid to represent District 2 by about 500 votes. Ms Gonzalez represents the next generation of Hispanic politician that are making their way up the political ladder – smart, articulate, independent, who cannot only speak to the issues of the community but can represent the Hispanic community proudly and with dignity. And these qualities are to become the formula of winning campaigns.

Ms Gonzalez was a virtual unknown six months ago and in that short time she came within a few hundred votes of winning. This over a candidate who held a 3 to 1 fundraising advantage, who had name identity (this being his second run at the seat), and who had the endorsement of the establishment. 500 votes short, Ms Gonzalez should be proud of what she accomplished.

In the District Eight Council Race, we saw two Hispanos compete against each other; Ben Hueso (D) made a good campaign against Luis Acle (R) and made it very clear politically you don’t run a Republican in a Barrio District with predominantly Mexican American Democratic voters!

For the Hispanic community in general this is a prelude of a new wave of Hispanic politician that can stand on their own merits and not have to depend solely on the good old boy system to get elected. Don’t get us wrong, the Hispanic community still has a long way to go to be fully engaged in the political process, in regards to fund raising and, more importantly, in registering and getting out and voting. But we are on our way with Hispanic politicians such as Ms Gonzalez, and the other Hispanic politicians just like her up and down the state. The Hispanic voter has a reason to get out and vote, and be proud.

(As of press time, the final count in District 2 has not been completed. Kevin Faulconer and Lorena Gonzalez are awaiting the final count of absentee ballots).

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