By Mary Olivella
Teresa Rey is one of the millions of mothers across the nation who carefully watched the first presidential debate of 2012. In a snap shot, it is fair to say that Teresa felt frustrated with the moderator’s lack of questions around family economic security issues.
Questions about unfair wages for mothers, the high price of childcare, and the lack of paid leave to care for children and the elderly were completely left off the table. The moderator also failed to ask the candidates about the contributions of immigrant families to the overall economy of our country. For Rey, who lives in Tampa, Florida, paying close attention to the candidates’ position on issues such as these is vital to ensuring that our communities thrive.
“Making a living wage is a big deal for us,” expressed Rey. “I was out of work. That’s rough. Even now, what I am making is a lot less than what I was making before and I don’t have work benefits like healthcare. I also don’t have paid sick days so if I or my daughters get sick that’s a problem.”
Rey will be among an estimated 12 million Latinas and Latinos expected to cast ballots this election year, up from 10 million in 2008, according to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. Moreover, the size of the Latino constituency specifically in states expected to be very competitive in 2012 — such as Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia — means that the Latino vote is critical to choosing our next president.
The Latina mom voter is especially a force to be contended with. According to the polling firm Latino Decisions, Latinas, like women overall, have voted at higher rates than their male counterparts for the past three decades and this pattern is expected to play out again in 2012.
At MomsRising, a national grassroots organization working to increase family economic security, we see how Latina moms from coast to coast are promoting the issues that we care about in order to protect and advance our families, and are committing to using our voting power in November.
Moreover, the Latina mom’s influence on the outcome of elections will extend well beyond the power of her own singular vote. As often seen in Latino communities, it is the mother who makes sure that other members of the family are registered to vote. So when mamá votes, the family votes.
As the second presidential debate approaches, moms and families throughout the country expect the moderator to pose questions on issues that affect us all on a daily basis – affordable healthcare and women’s reproductive health, childcare costs and investments in our nation’s children, pay equity for women, paid sick days and paid family leave, and fair treatment for immigrant families.
When the moderator raises these critical family economic security issues, we will have the opportunity to hear each candidate’s plans for linking the well-being of our families to the economic security of our country overall.
And when we’ve heard their plans, Rey, like other Latina mothers, and mothers throughout the country will be able to assess which candidate is best prepared to be the next President of the United States. And then head to the voting booth.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on the Miami Herald)
Mary Olivella is MomsRising's Chief Strategy Officer and director for diversity and inclusion campaign initiatives.