MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So as D.C. Latinos like Joshua Lopez ponder their political future, politicians in Virginia are very much focused on wooing Latino voters right now. The Latino population in Virginia is booming. It's doubled in the past decade or so, and it's growing especially quickly in the D.C. suburbs. This change is part of what has turned Virginia purple on electoral maps. In the Commonwealth, and nationwide, 70 percent of Latinos voted for Democratic candidates last year.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
This November's gubernatorial race is the first big election since then, and a sort of test for Republican attempts to broaden the party's appeal. Jacob Fenston brings us this story on how that's working out.
MR. JACOB FENSTON
It's a beautiful Saturday morning in the rolling cul-de-sacs of Fairfax County, Theresa Speake and Lee Avila are part of a small army of Latinos going door to door.
MS. LEE AVILA
I'm Lee and this is Theresa, and we're here with Cuccinelli For Governor campaign. As you know, Governor Cuccinelli is looking to reduce taxes in Virginia, second, he wants to reform our educational system, and third, he wants to stand up to the federal government.
Avila says the planks in that platform match up nicely with many Latinos' beliefs.
The values and traditions that we as Hispanics and Latinos have been brought up with are conservative, are family-oriented, and that's what our candidate stands for.
Avila joined the GOP in the very first election in which she could vote, back in college in Southern California.
When I was of voting age, 18 years old, I was approached by the Democrat party and told that I should have the candidate's sign in my window.
The Democrats, she says, took her vote for granted. She heard over and over…
You're Latino, you should vote for Carey Peck. And I said, who is Carey Peck and why should I? Well, he's a Democrat. Tells me nothing. And they weren't interested in educating me.
But when she sheepishly went to the Republicans, they had open arms. Theresa Speake is also a longtime Republican.
MS. THERESA SPEAKE
I mean, under Reagan, we welcomed people. We lost it. So now we're coming back and we're saying, look, we need to open those doors and we need to include everybody in the party.
MR. REINCE PRIEBUS
I think part of the problem with our party is that we show up once every four years, five months before an election, and expect to have success.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
I think saying things like self-deportation is a pretty big issue.
He's quoting Mitt Romney.
MR. MITT ROMNEY
The answer is self-deportation.
I think watching your mouth on things like that are important. And I think it was very hurtful to us in the Hispanic community.
Speaking of watching your mouth, this is Ken Cuccinelli calling in to a conservative talk show on WMAL last year. The topic is pest control and Cuccinelli has some misinformation about a D.C. law which he says bans killing rats.
MR. KEN CUCCINELLI
Not only that -- that's actually not the worst part. They cannot break up the families of the rats.
And then he says…
It is worse than our immigration policy. You can't break up rat families.
Comparing immigration policy to rat extermination may be just a poor choice of words in off-the-cuff comments, but Cuccinelli has a long history of tough talk on immigration. In the Virginia General Assembly, he introduced a string of bills targeting immigrants. One urged Congress to change the constitution so children of immigrants wouldn't gain automatic birthright citizenship. As Attorney General, he supported Arizona's controversial anti-immigrant law SB1070, and issued an official opinion allowing Virginia police to inquire about immigration status at traffic stops. On CNN, he brushed aside concerns about racial profiling.
Almost 3,000 people have been deported with the help of Prince William County in the last three or four years, just in one county. That's how many illegals were there and we haven't had any problems with profiling. None.
Since jumping into the race for governor, Cuccinelli has toned it down. He declined an interview for this story, but in a gubernatorial debate earlier this summer, he said he supports federal immigration reform.
You know, I'm Italian. You can tell that from Cuccinelli. I'm also Irish. You can tell that from how feisty I am. And we're a nation of immigrants. This is an important issue to so many Americans. And it's part of our history. And we have embraced people who have come to this country. who have embraced us, and that's something we should continue to do.
MS. LENI GONZALEZ
The damage has been done. The damage has been done.
Leni Gonzalez is a Democratic activist in Arlington. She rolls her eyes at the idea that Republicans can win over Latinos simply by supporting immigration reform.
It's just hypothetical. If they start talking about immigration reform, if they were doing anything, but they haven't stopped doing it for I don't know how many years now. So I am not sure that they will gain more Latinos.
Polls show immigration isn't the top issue for Latino voters, but it's a close second, after the economy. Latino voters are much less likely to vote for candidates who take hardline stances against undocumented immigrants, and they're more likely to vote for those who support passing the Dream Act, which would allow in-state college tuition for some undocumented students.
Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has made passing a Virginia Dream Act a central part of his platform.
MR. TERRY MCAULIFFE
We've got to make sure we're open and welcoming. We want everybody coming to Virginia.
Cuccinelli opposes the Dream Act.
My opponent has had a rigid ideological agenda. He runs for office, saying he's going to focus on jobs and transportation, but once he gets into office, he brings a social-ideological agenda to the table, which divides Virginians. It puts walls up around Virginia.
But how much does it really matter, whether Republicans win over Latinos in Virginia this November? Maybe not all that much, says Michael McDonald, a politics professor at George Mason University.
MR. MICHAEL MCDONALD
Roughly, about 8 percent of the Virginia population is Latino, but that's all people. That includes people who are under 18, and people who aren't citizens of the United States.
In his office, he pulls up the U.S. Census Bureau website and grabs the most recent Virginia numbers. When you do the math, subtracting non-citizens and kids, only about 4 percent of potential voters are Latino. In this off-off-year election, he says…
It may be around 3 percent or so of the electorate will be Latino.
So, he says, in 2013 it's entirely possible for a candidate to win in Virginia without Latino support. But that's going to change. According to one projection, Latinos will make up almost one-fifth of the state population by 2040. I’m Jacob Fenston.
Time for a break, but when we get back, why candidates for a presidency in another country are hitting the campaign trail in Washington, D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1
It's not only for the vote, but also for donations and for the support.
Plus the scam that's increasingly targeting Latinos in our region.
MS. MARIA CASTRO
She have everything, everything. She have a copy of my passport, my last work authorization, my social security, date of my birth, everything.
That and more is coming up on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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