Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Community’s involvement has Hispanic leaders excited

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Steve Marcus

Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, speaks during a breakfast meeting Wednesday at Dona Maria Tamales restaurant.

Breakfast at Doña Maria Tamales Restaurant has been the setting for many a turn of the wheel as politics has followed population for the Las Vegas Valley’s Hispanics, and Wednesday was no exception.

For 14 years the group Hispanics in Politics has been pushing the idea at its monthly meetings that Hispanic representation — in local, state and national offices — should mirror the number of Hispanics in Southern Nevada, now nearly seven times what it was in 1990.

At Wednesday’s meeting Fernando Romero, the group’s president, gave shout-outs to the next generation of potential leaders, all candidates in next year’s elections: Tibi Ellis and Richard Carrillo, running for the state Assembly, Mo Denis, who plans to vacate his Assembly seat and run for the state Senate, and Marco Rauda and Lucy Flores, who will compete for Denis’ seat.

The emotions ran so high that Romero apparently tipped Rauda’s card — he hadn’t officially announced his plans.

But the significance of the moment cannot be overstated. When Ruben Kihuen reached the Assembly in 2006, Denis joked that the 42-member house had just doubled its Hispanic membership. Now that he and Kihuen hope to move to the Senate, this crop of candidates, if successful, could triple the number. And so it goes.

Speaking from Washington, D.C., where he is vice president of Hispanic programs at NDN, a think tank and advocacy group, Andres Ramirez observed that the day’s event held another significance.

In addition to introducing candidates to a friendly crowd, Romero turned over the microphone to no fewer than nine groups — from big to small — that are all on the ground, working on the other key ingredient in electing Hispanic candidates: Hispanic voters. The groups work on registering voters, getting out the vote and building civic participation in general.

This, said Ramirez — who lost a 2005 bid to become North Las Vegas’ first Hispanic mayor — is the main difference between now, and say, 10 years ago.

“We learned that having candidates was not enough. We had a lack of infrastructure back then,” he said.

“Now there are more groups doing all this work ... there are more people engaged. And having more people engaged means they need more representation.”

Which also means there will be more to talk about in years to come over tamales at Doña Maria.

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