LatinaLista — The countdown to Tuesday's elections have been underway for a while but with news from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that Latino candidates are competing in 38 states for top federal and state offices, an increase of 46% since 1998, Tuesday's races will be even more interesting to watch.
NALEO's Educational Fund's executive director, Arturo Vargas, said, "â€œLatinos have mounted campaigns in every region of the nation â€“ from the Southwest, to the Northeast, to the Deep South, to New England, to the Midwest and Americaâ€™s â€˜heartland. This widespread competitiveness reveals the growing Latino political maturity. Latinos are demonstrating that they can raise campaign money, form political networks, organize their voting communities, and obtain key endorsements.â€
That may be true, but the real test will be if mainstream voters can see past a Latino candidate's surname and not automatically link them, heart-and-soul, with the immigration issue that has been described as a "Hispanic issue."
If that is the case, then Latino candidates are at a disadvantage because, regardless of their stand on this issue, they have to be more than that in order to fulfill the role of a government representative for the people â€” duh!
Yet, it remains to be seen how easy a job that will be.
One Latina who is running for a state senate seat in Minneapolis, Patricia Torres-Ray, has already proven she is more than a Spanish hyphenated surname.
In articles about her, Patricia has effectively distanced herself from so-called "Hispanic issues" and has concentrated on those issues that affect everyone: education, health, housing, etc.
Torres Ray, 42, is a native of Colombia who moved to Minnesota 19 years ago with her husband, Minnesota native Jack Ray. She learned English, got two college degrees and established a 16-year career in social service administration at the county and state level.
From the local newspaper's editorial board endorsing her candidacy to members of her own party who praised her campaign to get on the ballot, Patricia is a candidate being seen for who she is, what she has accomplished, and what she plans to accomplish â€” not her ethnicity.
We can only hope the same will be said of the other Latino/a candidates.
We'll know soon enough.