LatinaLista — It can never be said enough that politics is dirty business.
Map of Dirty Politics – (Source: greatdreams.com)
Whether it’s the recent state or local elections or the on-going start of the presidential campaigns, all are evidence that politicians look out for themselves first — everything, and everyone, else is secondary.
But it’s one thing for politicians to stick it to each other but to stick it to the voters — well, that’s crossing a line that demands penalties for any campaign that is associated with such tactics.
Unfortunately, sticking it to Latino and African American voters has been standard practice in too many parts of the country for too long. By the time the damage is done, the culprit doesn’t worry because complaints fade away or penalties are mild slaps and it’s time for a new campaign to begin.
Yet, with the blogosphere, such unethical and immoral practices, can live on and evolve into almost an urban legend until the mystery of who perpetuated the evil deed is solved.
So, in the spirit of ensuring that the story of how certain Latinos were targeted in a recent Fort Worth election, we retell it in the hopes that practices like these cease to be recognized as a part of “normal” politics.
In August, five-term incumbent Wendy Davis, announced she was stepping down from her seat on the Fort Worth City Council to run for the state Senate.
Since she had only just won re-election in May, this left a big block of time left to represent the District 9 seat. As can be expected, there was more than one person interested in filling her seat.
Six contenders signed up to compete for votes to replace Davis. There was one Latino among the six — Juan Rangel.
Rangel was already a familiar figure to Fort Worth voters since he had successfully served 8 years on the local school board.
Throughout the campaign for the special election that was held on November 6 to fill Davis’ seat, the usual back-stabbing, sabotaging kind of politics took place. At one point, one of Rangel’s competitors’ campaign workers, a guy by the name of Randy Dukes, publicly followed the Latino candidate to an elementary school — filming him for everyone to see.
The campaign worker accused Rangel of illegally campaigning on school property but school officials disputed the allegation.
Clarke Principal Tony Martinez said Rangel called to say he would be at the school to pass out information about the bond program.
“All he had in his hands was the bond literature that the district has provided for the school,” Martinez said.
An unidentified woman also photographed Rangel, Martinez said.
The incident didn’t hurt Rangel because he was one of two from the six candidates who will be in a special runoff election in December. Ironically, the candidate he will be facing, Joel Burns, is the one whose campaign worker filmed Rangel at that school.
Rangel said he is concerned that Dukes was intimidating voters in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.
“He doesn’t have to be filming me,” Rangel said. “He doesn’t have to be following me. What’s wrong with coming up and asking me?”
Rangel expressed skepticism that Burns’ campaign wasn’t involved.
“What causes anybody, especially from another campaign, to be doing that?” Rangel asked. “It just really freaks me out.”
If that was all that happened, we would chalk it up to “normal” politics but that episode only forbode of things to come.
The special election was held on November 6, but mysteriously a flier appeared in English and Spanish and was distributed before the election in two predominantly Forth Worth Hispanic neighborhoods.
The fliers featured the county logo and the county elections office logo and urged everyone to do their part and get out and vote — on November 10!
Four days after the official election.
Since then, the Texas district office of the League of the United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has requested a formal investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice to determine if the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been violated with such a stunt.
Also, someone else has asked that the Justice Department investigate the source of the fliers — Rangel’s competitor.
The Tarrant County district attorney’s office has started an inquiry to determine whether voting laws were violated, said Marvin Collins, chief of the office’s civil division. Investigators had found little information as of Monday, he said.
And in the old days, that’s probably where an investigation would have died. But these are new times and these tactics to blatantly disenfranchise voters deserves to be taken very seriously and investigated until it is found who was the mastermind behind the tactic.
If found to be associated with a specific campaign, with knowledge from high-level campaign workers/candidates, there should not be just a hefty fine but some prison time.
After all, purposely taking away people’s opportunity to vote is a far worse crime than what 12 million Latinos are being accused of these days.