Do Florida Democrats Have a Hispanic Outreach Problem?

Democrats in Florida have a huge registered voter advantage over Republicans, but you couldn't tell that by looking at the leadership in Tallahassee and the Republican super majorities in both house of the state legislature. There's a few reasons for that situation (including the Republican-controlled 2000 redistricting process), but the Associated Press finds that the party's dismal outreach to Hispanic voters hasn't helped. 

The argument that the party has failed to truly connect with Florida's growing Hispanic population is nothing new. Back in 2009 Riptide mused on the fact that the party has made little effort to run Hispanic politicians, while the Republicans have had success with politicians like Mel Martinez (and since then Marco Rubio). 

AP Hispanic Affairs Writer Laura Wides-Munoz, finds that the party is still struggling when it comes to Hispanic outreach:
Florida Hispanics, like Latinos nationwide, provided overwhelming support in 2008 for Obama thanks to a national get-out-the-vote effort. Since December of that year, 73,000 have registered in the state as Democrats and another 76,000 have registered while declaring no party. There have been 31,000 new Hispanic Republicans.

The growth in Democratic voters has come in part from younger, more progressive Cuban Americans and a wave of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos.

But that didn't help Florida Democrats in last year's election, as turnout of their Hispanic members dropped sharply -- even more than among other Democratic voters -- according to party leaders. It was one reason why the Democrats lost races for governor and U.S. Senate as well as other statewide contests.

The article mentions the fact that Democratic Governor Candidate Alex Sink bought few Spanish-language ads, the party's failure to reach out to Latino churches, and local incidents where party officials have failed to include Hispanics on redistricting boards.

Florida's Hispanic population also differs from that of others states, considering Puerto Ricans are already US citizens and the amnesty policies involving Cuban immigration. So immigration issues aren't as pressing to Florida voters as they are to those in other states. It's why Governor Rick Scott was able to win 50 percent of the Hispanic vote despite running a campaign that featured Arizona-style immigration policies as its central plank. 

Though, like we mentioned in 2009, the party still has a problem fielding Hispanic candidates. 

"There's no bench here. Democrats don't cultivate Hispanic leaders," Freddy Balsera, a member of Democratic National Committee's finance team, tells the AP.

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Kyle Munzenrieder