By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
Illinois Republicans’ have spent a lot of time trying to attract Latino voters this election, and it’s all part of a long-term effort and an ongoing “conversation,” says one expert, himself a Latino Republican.
“It’s not about this president or any particular senator or anything. This is an effort to communicate a set of ideals and ideas to the Latino community and offer them an alternative to what their current majority voting is and engage in conversation over time,” said John Guevaro, a Winnebago County board member and vice president of the Illinois Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Winnebago County is about 11 percent Hispanic or Latino.
“We do that enough and persist, and in 10 more years that pays you back. In 15 years we could see some really serious significant change.”
According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Illinois’s Latino population grew 33 percent – from 1.5 million to 2 million – between 2000 and 2010. The majority of the state’s Latino population lives in northern Illinois – in Chicago, Aurora, Cicero, Waukegan, Elgin, Joliet and Rockford. About two-thirds of them live in Cook County, mostly in Chicago, where Latinos represent almost 30 percent of Chicago’s population.
NALEO encourages Latinos to become more involved in the political process. Latinos tend to vote Democrat as a bloc.
Guevara said their perception of the Republican Party is that it’s about “old white men.”
“That’s a hard thing to shake,” he said.
“Just because some Republicans are older and they also are white doesn’t mean they can’t provide quality service and do the things that we (Latinos) want to see done, which is more jobs in the state of Illinois, better access to transportation and ensure the roads are functional, a solid capital plan, and that people are able to make more money and take home more money.”
Changing the perception is an uphill battle, but a challenge Illinois Republicans are willing to meet head on. It’s all about the conversation, Guevara said, adding that Republicans have to get away from the marketing aspect of politics and into the substance.
He pondered what would happen in Cook County if Republicans were able to flip the voting percentages from 15 to 20 percent Republican to a 60-percent Latino Republican turnout.
“You change multiple wards. You change the face of multiple townships and the county government,” he said. “You may not be able to change the makeup of the city council overall, but you will have a significant impact on the direction of the city council because Republicans are winning elections. And then that influences state elections.”