SAN DIEGO — “I’m not taking a single Latino vote for granted,” Sen. Barack Obama promised thousands at the National Council of La Raza’s national conference here, July 13. To show his seriousness, right after Obama’s speech his campaign held a three-hour Latinos for Obama briefing for NCLR members where top-level Latino staff outlined the nuts and bolts of his Latino campaign strategy and answered in detail questions about his positions on key issues.
Daniel Sepulveda, senior policy advisor on Obama’s Senate staff, said Obama’s core commitments that he will not compromise are “ending the war in Iraq, providing health care for all, reinvesting in education, and bringing the 12 million out of the shadows with a path to citizenship.” On trade issues, Obama is “committed to amending all the current treaties to add labor and environmental protections,” Sepulveda said.
Stressing that, “My boss will not vote for a pure temporary worker program,” he said Obama wants a program that will enable all who come here to work to get married, raise families and have a path to citizenship — there will be no new “bracero” program.
Regarding Obama’s pledge to introduce and work to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in his first year of office, his advisor said Obama will seek a “real compromise, stand up to the right wing, and demand transparency in the process. Obama opposes the “Shuler bill,” HR 4088, which establishes what many consider a deeply flawed national worker identification program and would use the Social Security system to require employers to fire any workers whose names do not match their Social Security numbers. Obama says the privacy of all U.S. workers must be protected and no one should be fired without full due process.
Latinos for Obama national coordinator Cuauhtemoc Figueroa said the campaign would focus “like a laser on Latino voters in the battleground states of New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida,” adding that if Obama wins the three in the Southwest or Florida, he wins the election. Full-time staff will also be sent to work on the Latino vote in other states where the numbers are high like California and Texas, and also battleground states like Virginia with a 5 percent Latino electorate, and Ohio, with a 10 percent Latino population, where a big Latino turnout can be the margin of victory.
Major efforts will be made to bring out the Latino vote where key congressional and state legislative posts can be won, said Figueroa. Over 100 Latino organizers are being hired to carry this out. Major voter registration efforts are already going in key areas.
Referring to polls that show Obama leading John McCain 2-1 among Latinos, Figueroa said, “We have to do better.” He said the media would tend to favor McCain, pointing to the “myth” that Latinos don’t support African American candidates. He noted that Latinos have voted overwhelmingly for African American candidates in key local races. “Latinos voted 85 percent to elect David Dinkins mayor of New York, 90 percent for Wellington Webb in Denver, 80 percent for Harold Washington in Chicago, 75 percent for Kirk in Dallas” and were a major part of the Tom Bradley coalition in Los Angeles.
The campaign will make unprecedented major media buys in Spanish and English in Latino markets to help the Latino community know Obama better. Efforts will include mail, walk distribution pieces, print ads and get-out-the vote material.
A comprehensive “Blueprint for Change” booklet is available in English and Spanish detailing Obama’s stands on Latino issues. Conference calls and town hall meetings will be held on key issues with Latino organizations and groups. This includes a call in conference with former Clinton cabinet member and Denver Mayor Federico Pena.
State directors in New Mexico and Colorado are Latinos, Latino staff will be on the ground in at least 12 states, 3,600 volunteers will be registering voters across the country, and volunteers from bordering states will flood Latino battleground states.
Action priorities for volunteers include phone banking from home using an online phone banking tool, registering voters in battleground states, sponsoring buses to battleground states, holding house parties to raise $200 each to sponsor a voter registration canvasser for a weekend, and adopting a city in a neighboring battleground state to visit once a month until Election Day.
A Camp Obama program is in motion to train supporters in the basics of organizing based “on the traditions of community organizing in Barack’s own background.” Some 500 supporters will be recruited and trained in two-day Latino-oriented Camp Obama sessions from which 100 new Latino organizers will be hired and placed. The first two trainings will be in Florida and Nevada. The Nevada session will be July 25-27 in the Las Vegas Culinary Union hall.
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