Friday, Oct. 24, 2008 | 2 a.m.
The Las Vegas Valley’s two Spanish-language weeklies announced their support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday, having come to the endorsements via markedly different means.
With more than three decades on the local scene, Eddie Escobedo, owner of El Mundo, made up his mind only after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid arranged 12 minutes of face time with Obama. El Mundo has endorsed Democrats for president since 1992, but as a hardcore supporter of Hillary Clinton, Escobedo had hard feelings about Obama until he sat down with him minutes before his Sept. 17 rally at Cashman Field.
Across town at El Tiempo, the newer of the weeklies, the announcement came out of a simple vote among editors and the no-problem permission of a parent company that is supporting Republican candidate John McCain. El Tiempo’s pitch is the first political endorsement of any kind in the publication’s 14-year history.
Together, the endorsements add another brick in the wall of Obama’s support among Nevada’s Hispanics, also seen in a recent poll that found about 62 percent of the state’s Hispanic voters going for the Democratic candidate.
Nevada’s Hispanic vote is considered key in this election and was cited as one reason the Democratic party held its first early caucus here, in January. About 12 percent of Clark County’s registered voters are Hispanic.
Escobedo said Reid called him several weeks before the Cashman field event and asked if he had decided who he would endorse. “I told him no, I was still thinking about it,” Escobedo said. “He asked if it would make a difference if Obama called me. Two hours later, he did. (Obama) asked me, ‘What would it take to get you involved?’ I told him I wanted to meet him in person.”
Before too long, Secret Service agents were whisking Escobedo to the former office of the general manager of the Las Vegas 51s at Cashman. Escobedo sat across from Obama, who asked him, “How do Hispanics see me?”
“I told him, ‘Like you’re not one of us.’ He asked me, ‘What would it take to change that?’ I said, ‘Do what Hillary did, visit our neighborhoods at lunchtime or dinner time, when the señora of the house is in. Grab a tortilla, talk to them, with the national media behind you. Let us see you with us. That will make us feel like you’re one of us.’ ”
Obama promised to do that on his next visit to the valley.
The two talked about immigration reform, which Obama said his administration would try to address in its first 100 days; they talked about foreclosures, which have hit working-class Hispanics hard.
Afterward, Escobedo thought the candidate understood him, and more important, Hispanics in general. “In 12 minutes, he changed my mind,” he said.
Over at El Tiempo, Associate Editor Hernando Amaya said his paper’s staff decided to end its silence on endorsements “because this one is historical.”
“For the first time, we may have a minority in the White House,” he said, adding that two wars and the meltdown of the economy make this election even more critical.
He said most of the weekly’s editorial staff members were in favor of Obama’s candidacy because they think he better understands issues important to Hispanics such as education and jobs and is “closer to our community.”
Geoff Schumacher, director of community publications for Stephens Media, and Sherman Frederick, publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, then approved the decision to print the endorsement in the Oct. 24 edition.
Amaya said the move is satisfying because it “draws us closer to our readers, many of whom feel the same way.”