In last Tuesday's election, Hispanic voters cemented Harry Reid’s victory in Nevada. His victory also confirmed that the Democratic Party would retain a majority in the Senate after having lost control of the House of Representatives.
According to Latino Decisions, up to 90 percent of Latinos supported the Democrat. An MSNBC exit poll estimated the support at 68 percent.
"The Republican wave has encountered a wall in the West,” explained Gary Segura, in charge of the Latino Decisions poll.
The impact of the immigration debate in states like Arizona, Nevada or California was on the voters' minds. For Clarissa Martinez, strategy director for the National Council of La Raza, it was clear that "the majority of Hispanics went to vote to demand respect."
Several Hispanic organizations agree that Hispanics were out to reaffirm their importance as both candidates and voters in the U.S. political arena. They helped Democrat Harry Reid retain his Senate seat, but also were behind the rise of Republican Marco Rubio, the first senator of Cuban descent from Florida, and Susana Martinez, the first Hispanic governor of New Mexico.
In California, Hispanics voted together to block Republicans. All data suggest that in this state the Hispanic electorate contributed to a Democratic victory for both Governor-Elect Jerry Brown (with 63 percent of the Hispanic vote) and Senator Barbara Boxer. In the tightest elections, the Hispanic vote constituted the winning margin for each candidate. Polls suggest that the large influx of Hispanics to the polls had a lot do with the debate on immigration.
As much as 63 percent of the Hispanics questioned in eight key states declared that the issue of immigration brought them to the polls. Also, the majority of Hispanics, some 47 percent, voted in support of their community, compared to 31 percent and 12 percent who said they voted to support Democrats or Republicans, respectively.
The different results within the Hispanic community will force the Republican Party to reconsider its position relating to immigration reform. The majority of Republicans oppose a new system, but many Hispanics helped elevate party candidates like Marco Rubio in Florida.
"The Hispanic electorate, especially in Florida, is very diverse in nationalities," pointed out Segura. The author of the study insists that Rubio represents a victory for the Republican Cuban community in Florida, but not for all Hispanics in the state.
One cannot generalize to all Hispanic voters throughout the country. In the case of Arizona, they turned their backs on Jan Brewer after a very aggressive campaign. Only 14 percent of the Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate, according to polls by Latino Decisions.
"There is no doubt that the law SB1070 and the incessant anti-immigrant attacks by Jan Brewer were important factors for Hispanics at voting time" affirmed Ben Monterroso, executive director of the Mi Familia Vota organization. "Politicians should take note: this strategy isn't working. Hispanics are growing as a group of voters. If you base a campaign on dividing the electorate on how they feel about immigration, it isn't only anti-democratic, it's crazy."
The Mi Familia Vota organization worked the past few months to register the greatest number of Hispanic voters possible. The results: 26,000 joined the permanent voters' list, an increase of 30 percent in just one year. The coalition of organization such as Mi Familia Vota managed to contact 230,000 Latino voters designated as "infrequent."
"Now we know the role that Hispanic voters can play in the next statewide elections in Arizona," said Francisco Heredia, director of Mi Familia Vota in Arizona. "If we continue to invest in programs to increase the Hispanic participation, there is no doubt that the voice of these voters will be increasingly heard in the 2010 election and beyond."
The Hispanic voters decided for specific candidates for one or the other parties in Arizona, New Mexico, Florida or California. But Frank Sherry, director of America's Voice goes further: “Hispanics saved the Senate for the Democrats.”