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Latino Vote Takes Hillary to New York Senate Victory


November 8, 2000
Copyright © 2000 All Rights Reserved.

With solid support from Latino voters, Hillary Rodham Clinton made history this Tuesday when she became the only First Lady to be elected to public office.

Latinos throughout the state were elated that a Democrat was elected in the face of an apparent Bush presidential win.

"Usually I don't care about politics," said Rosa Arredondo, an actress. "But I was so happy when she gave her victory speech. I couldn't believe it."

At 11 p.m. Tuesday night, Clinton's challenger Rick Lazio called to congratulate her on her victory. In his concession, Lazio said he felt like the New York Mets.

"This shows an increase in African American and Latino participation at the polls," said Juan Figueroa, president of the Puerto Rican Legal and Education Fund. "Clinton's election shows the influence of the Latino vote. As for the First Lady, voters responded to what she represented."

Estimates show that 85 percent of New York's Latino voters backed Clinton. Figueroa is hopeful that Clinton will live up to her campaign promises.

"I'm glad that Hillary won the senate race. I think that she truly has some good policies and will be a good representative for New York Latino's concerns," said Jeison Rodriguez, an art director.

Still, with Hispanics voting mostly Democratic in the state, some Latinos felt cautiously optimistic that Clinton, who had never held public office, was elected.

"Hillary, at least she's better than Lazio," said Papoleto Melendez, poet and educator. "Lazio was what he looked like, a Howdy-Doody puppet. Now let's see if she can keep true to her promises."

Many women throughout the state supported Clinton because she is an assertive woman who was come out from behind her husband's shadow.

"Hillary's not like Jackie Kennedy, who said that her job was to make sure the president was comfortable," said Jenny Martinez, a law student. "Jackie was a trophy figurehead and Hillary completely sheds that image. She'll be good for New York State and the women's liberation movement."

Documentary filmmaker Tania Cuevas Martinez said she's excited at what Clinton can do to help people of color and undocumented Mexican workers in New York.

"She has a lot to prove but this is a good step," said Martinez. "I support her as a woman, but I want to see what she does. Actions speak louder than words."

What Clinton had going for her was that she was aware of national Latino issues from her unique vantage as First Lady.

"We have high hopes that she'll vote positively on issues regarding Latinos," said Triana D'Orazio, a spokesperson for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "In New York, we hope she listens for Latino issues and can break through all the partisan politics."

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