Latino voters could be the crucial swing vote that decides who will be Chicago’s next mayor, but according to a recent poll, many Latinos said they haven’t heard from either of the candidates ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election.
The Northwestern University poll released earlier this week found that 47% of Latino voters had not been contacted by either campaign.
That’s a “missed opportunity,” according to Karina Ayala-Bermejo, president and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino, which is part of a 26-group coalition called the Illinois Latina Agenda working on education and outreach efforts for Latino voters.
She said the campaigns of both Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson have “focused too much on the lakeside vote and not enough on those Latino and Black votes.”
Roberto Valdez Jr., Midwest policy director for the Hispanic Federation, said that while both candidates have done a “great job” in the debates and forums, he agrees their voter outreach efforts to the Latino community have fallen well short.
“The campaign outreach is not culturally or linguistically competent,” said Valdez Jr.
Jaime Dominguez, political science professor at Northwestern, said he’s not surprised by the poor voter outreach and said neither campaign has done much to court Latino voters. But, he said, it was even worse in the past. He noted that in the 2015 mayoral election runoff election pitting Jesús “Chuy” García against incumbent Rahm Emanuel, 65% of Latinos reported no contact from either campaign.
According to the NU poll, and not surprisingly, crime and public safety are top of the list of priorities for Latino voters, as they are for most Chicagoans.
However, Johnson and Vallas have very different plans to address the issue.
Johnson wants to significantly raise taxes to invest in marginalized communities and reform and restructure the Chicago Police Department, while Vallas wants to increase the number of police officers and deploy more of them on community beats.
Ayala-Bermejo said the Latino community is “very in tune” with the debate over crime and safety because many officers come from the Latino community, but she said there are also concerns over policing policies that “negatively impact our community.”
“There are relationships that need to be repaired and work that needs to be put in on accountability,” said Ayala-Bermejo. “There is a critical need for law enforcement, but the type that understands and works with our community … so that when folks call 911, they’re going to get somebody who is accountable for the way they act and be a resource to deescalate the situation, not shoot our people on the street.”
Dominguez said he isn’t sure how well Vallas’ approach of wanting to put more police in communities is going down with Latinos and African Americans “because of the fact the two communities have historically been over-policed.”
According to Valdez Jr., the diversity of the Latino community means that both candidates’ messaging on crime resonates.
“It just depends on who you’re talking to,” said Valdez Jr.