September 21, 2001

Latina Opinion - Who's Listening?

Over 100 Latinas will gather in Washington, DC, September 23rd through 26th, 2001 for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality's (HOPE's) 4th Annual Latina Action Day - DC (LAD-DC). These women are not only a critical swing vote capable of deciding everything from a local to a Presidential election, but they are also leaders in their communities, influencing hundreds of other voters.

While LAD-DC has become an institution, according to HOPE President Susan Si-fuentes-Trigueros, the question remains: "Political parties and institutions have declared a renewed interest in the Hispanic vote and have committed significant financial resources to pursue it, but is anyone close to hitting the target? Is the Latina voter and community leader being patronized or is she being invited to the public policy decision making table?"

"Who are our elected officials depending on as they develop outreach strategies?" asks LAD-DC Chair Sandra Mag-ana. "Only 3% of House Washington, DC staff, and 2% of Senate Washington, DC staff are Hispanic, conveying to the members that they represent the opinions of 35 million Hispanics, 12.5% of the US Population."

The results of these outreach strategies are reflected in a recent national survey of over 500 Latinas conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for the Latino Coalition. While 44% of Latinas have a favorable impression of President George W. Bush, only 19% have a favorable impression of Republicans in Congress versus 51% who have a favorable impression of Democrats in Congress.

HOPE LAD-DC Co-Chair Yasmin Davidds-Garrido notes "The most significant data from this survey is those with `no opinion.' Thirty three percent of Latinas had no opinion of Democrats in Congress, and 41% had no opinion of Republicans in Congress, versus only 24% who have no opinion on the President. That leaves significant room for improvement or deterioration depending on the strategy and commitment, or lack thereof, of each of these bodies."

"The LAD-DC theme this year is "Climb the Hill To Empowerment"," says HOPE Executive Director Helen Torres. "We chose a room in a Senate building for our annual Congressional Reception because, while six Latinas have made it to the House of Representatives, NONE have been elected to the Senate. Latinas won't be truly empowered until we are at EVERY decision making table as concerned community leaders, senior staff, and elected officials. A successful outreach strategy to this key constituency is not talking "at" Latinas, but truly including us in the policy making process."

"HOPE and LAD-DC provide important opportunities not only for Latinas to develop their knowledge of and network within Washington, DC, they also provide a venue for decision makers at all levels in Washington to develop knowledge of and a relationship with this key constituency," concludes event Chair Sandra Magana.

HOPE, founded in 1989, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization committed to ensuring political and economic parity for Latinas through leadership, advocacy, and education to benefit all communities and the status of women.

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