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In Touch With Latinos: Bloomberg, Other Republicans Cultivating Ties


August 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Latino New Yorkers voted Republican in decisive numbers for the first time last year, comprising a key swing vote in Michael Bloomberg’s election as mayor.

Bloomberg himself is the first to admit that the historic first may very well have been as much the result of his Democratic opponent’s alienating and losing the Latino vote as of his own efforts to win it.

Nonetheless, in Bloomberg’s view, the phenomenon did mark an important change in New York politics, one that could also have national implications.

"The important thing is that the Latino vote can no longer be taken for granted," Bloomberg told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS during his second visit to Puerto Rico since winning the mayoralty race against Democrat Mark Green last year.

"I really do believe that it’s Latinos that need both parties saying, ‘I’ve got to get this group,’" said Bloomberg. "The fact is that for any group that wants to share in the benefits of society, you have to be in contention–you have to ask for it and have a reason for people to give it to you."

Bloomberg said that through its actions, the Latino community is effectively awakening keener interest by Republicans not only in New York but nationwide.

"Every time I go see [Governor George] Pataki, he’s studying his Spanish tapes," said Bloomberg, who gave the impression that though he may have been exaggerating, it wasn’t by much. The mayor said he thinks Pataki is well positioned to win a solid majority of the Latino vote in his re-election bid this November.

And at the national level, the mayor also noted that throughout their political careers, both President Bush and his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, have made it a practice to assiduously cultivate the support of Latino voters.

Looks to proactively represent constituents

As mayor, Bloomberg said his frequent contact with Governor Calderon and with Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia fundamentally respond to his own interest in serving his nearly 800,000 Puerto Rican and more than 400,000 Dominican constituents.

For example, he said he enthusiastically supports Governor Calderon’s stateside voter inscription drive. "The more people who are registered, the more people who vote and run for office, the better government we’ll have."

"I’m also conscious of the fact that I represent the city with the largest Puerto Rican population in the world," says Bloomberg. "It’s because of those that I represent," Bloomberg said, that he was eager to attend this year’s Puerto Rico Constitution Day ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the commonwealth’s constitution.

Bloomberg is quick to point out, however, that his attendance in no way was meant to imply an endorsement of commonwealth as the preferred political status for Puerto Rico. "That’s up to the people of Puerto Rico," he said when asked about the island’s status debate.

He also said he took the initiative to both inform President Bush that he was going to attend the event and offer to represent him on the occasion. "I just called up and said I’m going and would you like me to represent you," the mayor recounted.

Bloomberg said he’s recruited a number of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans to serve in his administration. His deputy mayor for legal affairs, for example, is Puerto Rican Carol Robles. He also recently named former U.S. Congressman Herman Badillo to the city’s Charter Revision Committee and the Twin Towers Fund.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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