Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Latino Congressman shares his thoughts on Immigration

Rep. Raul Grijalva
My thoughts on fixing immigration
By Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Az

TUCSON, AZ -- The conversation we're all having about immigration reform isn't new. Congress has been talking -- and talking plenty -- about how to fix our broken immigration system for a long time. I've been proud to represent you in that conversation since I got to Congress, and now that we're on track for a real bill I'm proud to speak up for your concerns in Washington. But that's not all I'm doing.

On Jan. 28, I spoke at a great rally in Phoenix with some of our strongest allies in this fight. Groups such as Mi Familia Vota and Promise Arizona have spent years on the ground making immigration reform possible, and at this crucial moment, they're fighting to make the final product something we can be proud of, not just something we can barely live with. I'm happy to lead that fight on your behalf and I hope you'll join me in keeping up the pressure. Now is the time to make your voice heard.

I'm getting ready to introduce a whole package of border and immigration bills during the first week of February. We can't just have our say in the press, although that is an important part of our strategy. We need to be on record in Congress to remind everyone that immigration reform can't just be a code word for a triple-layer fence and Arpaio-style family raids. We have to improve our ports of entry to speed cross-border commerce and create jobs all across the country. We have to protect public land in our border areas because if Republicans get their way our wildlife preserves and national parks will be a thing of the past. We can't let that happen.

Your needs, your values and your families are what are most important in this fight. Immigration reform isn't about me -- it's about you, and it's about what kind of country we want to build. Our future can be about a more realistic, more tolerant and more inclusive society, or it can be about what a few loud conservative activists think "Real America" looks like. If you agree with me about which one you prefer, make your voice heard. I say it a lot, and it's always true: democracy doesn't work without you.

Please spread the word. People don't know how important this is unless they hear from friends and people they trust. Thanks so much for all you do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

National Hispanic organization chimes in on Latino Vote

Charles Kamasaki
So What Do We Do Now?
Latinos and the 2nd Obama Admnistration

By Charles Kamasaki, National Council of La Raza

For perhaps the first time in history, the Latino vote is widely acknowledged to have proven decisive in a Presidential election. How should the community's advocates react? The natural tendency is to push for more across the board, hoping that the community's greater political power will automatically translate into public policy wins.

While surely there's some truth to this assumption, it won't be easy. Getting anything done in today's highly-charged, deeply polarized environment is very difficult. And paradoxically, the prominence of the Hispanic vote may actually reduce the incentive for some partisans on both sides of the aisle to enact policies their political opponents might get credit for.

As Latino advocates consider what to do next, it would behoove us to step back, take a hard look at the current landscape, and make some strategic, intentional decisions about where we allocate our collective advocacy resources. Let's start by taking a hard look at what just happened.

First, the good news: the absolute number of Hispanic voters in 2012 increased substantially over 2008 - a significant milestone given that overall turnout probably went down a bit.[1] As many as three-quarters of Latino voters supported the winner, President Obama, according to the Impremedia/Latino Decisions poll, which is likely more reliable than the media consortium's exit poll.

Nine newly-elected Representatives will join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus next year, and Ted Cruz will join Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez in the Senate. To the surprise of many, a ballot initiative on in-state tuition for undocumented students won a major victory in Maryland. And this hasn't gone unnoticed. Dozens of reporters, politicians, and pundits have noted the community's growing clout, often ably assisted by press events and news releases issued by Latino advocates.

However, one of the biggest dangers advocates face is believing our own spin. Without in any way denigrating the progress we've made as a result of major civic engagement efforts by many of our organizations, if we parse the data carefully there are some dark clouds hidden behind the silver lining.

On the electoral front, a major long term concern is that the Hispanic electorate is not keeping up with the community's population growth. "Straight line" growth - that is, replication of the 27-28% increases in actual voters that took place over the last two cycles - should have produced about 12.4 million Hispanic voters this year, but it appears that total Latino 2012 turnout will be below 12 million.[2]

A related concern is that the talk about the importance of the Hispanic vote was not matched by commensurate investments in expanding the electorate. As a result, hardly a dime was invested in nonpartisan citizenship or voter registration work in non-battleground states like California, Texas, New York, Illinois, or New Mexico, which have the greatest concentrations of potential - but not yet actual - Latino voters.

On the policy front, the ideological make-up of Congress hardly changed at all, and some key allies like DREAM Act sponsors Richard Lugar in the Senate and Howard Berman in the House, won't be returning next year. This means that translating the community's growing electoral power into policy change will remain difficult at best.

Allocating one's advocacy resources involve inevitable trade-offs: short-term vs. long term, pushing the envelope vs. settling for a compromise, asserting parochial interest vs. working in broader coalitions, and so on. There are no "right" answers, and obviously every institution and advocate will do what they have to do on their own top priorities. But events require us to concentrate collectively on at least two major fronts right now.

The first involves imminent debates over how to address the "fiscal cliff." Representing a community with both an immediate need for jobs and long-term human capital investments, Hispanic advocates should push for some form of immediate job creation effort and fight equally hard to protect key education and workforce programs. Achieving these goals likely will require both substantial new revenue and some entitlement reform over the long-term, meaning pitched battles with some conservatives on taxes and uncomfortable discussions with some traditional allies on entitlements.

The second is immigration reform. While it's axiomatic that most of us will be calling for reform, there are at least three things we haven't always done that we need to do now.

One is greater outreach to those not yet persuaded that reform is necessary or desirable. Enactment of a bill will require at least 30-35 Republican votes in the House and five-to-seven in the Senate. Only if we work on a bipartisan basis using all of our collective resources are we likely to achieve these goals.

Two, we need to continue to hold the Administration's feet to the fire, including demanding expansion of deferred deportation to cover, at a minimum, the parents and siblings of U.S. citizen children.

But three, and this is the hard part, at the appropriate time we'll need to be prepared to compromise when the time comes.

As immediate developments require a focus on these and other short term policy priorities, it will be equally important to focus on some crucial long term interests. Arguably the most important of these is growing the Latino electorate.

While we can and should celebrate the 11-12 million Hispanics who voted, out of slightly over 14 million registered, we cannot forget the 10 million Latino citizens of voting age who are not yet registered to vote, a group that will grow by over 500,000 per year. There are certain inherent challenges: this population is disproportionately young and low-income, has relatively low levels of educational attainment, and is highly mobile. In addition, voter ID laws and other artificial barriers are not likely to go away soon.

Charles Kamasaki is Executive Vice President of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). He has worked for NCLR for the last 32 years; his first role with organization was at a South Texas-based program where he specialized in supporting affordable housing construction. He has since headed their Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation and directed their Policy Analysis Center. Prior to working for the NCLR, he specialized in providing elected officials with technical assistance in housing and community development. He has held leadership positions with the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and the National Immigration Law Center. Charles is the co-author, with Raul Yzaguirre, of the seminal paper, "Black-Hispanic Tensions: One Perspective," Journal of Intergroup Relations (Winter 1994-5) and is currently taking a one-year partial leave of absence to write a book on immigration policy and politics. He can be reached at

Friday, November 2, 2012

Will the Latino vote go unrewarded?

Latino voters will probably help reelect President Obama, but what will they get in return?
By Adrian Perez, Associate Editor, Journal On Latino Americans

Yes.  It is true.  The majority of Latino voters who will participate in this year’s Presidential election will vote for President Barack Obama.  Most will not vote for him because he has been good for Latinos, they will be voting for him because the Republicans have almost totally alienated Latino voters.

Like many other Latinos, I supported Obama’s election in 2008, not because he would have been the first President of color, but because his speeches told us there was a much brighter light if we elected him to lead the free world.  As an independent voter, I studied his and Senator John McCain’s messages to see which would better serve the Latino community and hands down, Obama was a cut above.  So what happened?

President Barack Obama has been a disappointment for Latinos in his policies and broken promises that once stirred support and a drive for change in the 2008 Presidential election.  The country has never been more divided with partisan politics playing a key role in how Latinos, documented or undocumented, are perceived.  Had the President stuck to his promises and demonstrated true leadership by standing up to racist attitudes toward Latinos and address the undocumented worker issue in a more prompt and humane level, support for his reelection would have remained or exceeded what he experienced in 2008.

I was present at the 2008 National Council of La Raza annual convention in San Diego, California, where Obama promised that immigration reform would be a priority in his first year as President.  Instead, his immigration policies of the last 4 years have resulted in the largest number of undocumented Latino deportations occurring, many without due process, which split thousands of families.

Some have argued that it hasn’t been the President’s fault.  Really?  The Department of Homeland Security is under his rule and he appointed former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to establish and implement the most cruel and inhumane approaches of deportation, where in many cases children had to be placed in foster homes or left with a single parent to care for them.  So why did Obama wait to take action until it was time to run for reelection?

As an olive-branch to the Latino community, Obama offered a policy this year, protecting the millions of undocumented children who were brought here by their parents, an opportunity not to be deported if they self-identified themselves as undocumented.  The problem with that policy is the Department of Homeland Security will know where these children are and if the policy is not extended, they will be deported. 

Governor Mitt Romney is no saint either, making it clear he would deport all undocumented residents, including children, unless they entered the military.  Unfortunately, they are not his policies as much as they are the Republican Party’s policies. 

Unless real Latino leadership in the U.S. stands up to the winner of this year’s Presidential winner, we can expect more of the same. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why pollsters missed the Latino Vote - 2012 edition

Why Pollsters Missed the Latino Vote – 2012 edition

by Latino Decisions
In 1998 Harry Pachon and Rudy de la Garza wrote a report for the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute titled "Why Pollsters Missed the Latino Vote - Again!" in which they argued that polls across California failed to accurately account for Latino voters in their samples, and that pre-election polls statewide were fraught with errors as a result.  Pachon and de la Garza argued that "mainstream" pollsters failed to account for Latinos for three primary reasons: 1) their sample sizes of Latinos were far too small; 2) their Latinos samples were not representative of the Latino population within the state; and 3) they were not interviewing Latinos in Spanish at the correct proportions.  THIS WAS 14 YEARS AGO (yes I am screaming).
In 2010 Gary Segura and I wrote that not much had changed and polls continued to mis-represent the Latino vote.  It is now well-known that polls in Nevada had small, unrepresentative and biased samples of Latinos, leading them to entirely miss Harry Reid's 5-point lead over Sharron Angle.  Two weeks ago, Nate Silver wrote at 538 that some polls seem to be continuing the same mistakes and under-counting and mis-counting Latino voters, which he had originally picked up, and wrote about the day after the 2010 midterms.  Around the same time some new polls started appearing in states like Nevada and Florida with bizarre data for Latino voters - Obama only had an 8 point lead among Nevada Latinos, and Romney was actually ahead among Latinos in Florida.  Really?
And now the worst offenders might be the newest batch of national polls are attempting to estimate the national Obama-Romney horse race numbers.  Monday October 22, Monmouth University released a poll in which Romney leads Obama 48% to 45%.  Among Latinos, they report Obama leads by just 6 points - 48% to 42%.  These numbers are such extreme outliers that even Romney campaign surrogates would have a hard time believing them.  While Monmouth is the most recent, there have been many national polls with equally faulty numbers among Latinos.
Keep that 48 to 42 number in your head and let's compare across a variety of recent polls of Latino voters.  As a matter of self-interest, we'll start with four recent impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking polls in October.  The last four polls released by IM/LD have found the Latino vote nationally at 71-20; 67-23; 72-20; 73-21.  Don't like those? NBC/Telemundo have released two polls in October of Latinos, putting the race at 70-25, and 70-20 just before that. And then there was the Pew Hispanic Center poll 10 days ago which had Obama 69-21 over Romney, and just before that CNN did a poll of Latinos putting the national vote at 70-25.  Okay - that's eight national polls of Latino voters in the month of October and the average across all eight is 70.3% for Obama to 21.9% for Romney.
The Monmouth poll is not the only one that is off, the Gallup tracking poll has also been heavily criticized for mis-calculating the minority vote. Noted Political Scientist Alan Abramowitz has written recently that Gallup has too many Whites and too few Blacks and Latinos in their sample, not keeping up with simple demographic changes in America.  And other polls are similarly off.  A Politico/GWU poll in mid-October had Latinos 53-44 for Obama, +9 nationally.
Let's examine how these faulty Latino numbers create problems with the overall national estimates.  Afterall, Latinos are estimated to comprise 10% off all voters this year.  If Latinos are only leaning to Obama 48-42, that +6 edge among 10% of the electorate only contributes a net 0.6 advantage to Obama (4.8 for Obama to 4.2 for Romney).  However, if instead Obama is leading 70.3 to 21.9 that +48.4 edge contributes a net 4.8 advantage to Obama (7.0 to 2.2), hence the national polls may be missing as much as 4 full points in Obama's national numbers.
Let's break the numbers down a bit more to see if the math adds up, as Bill Clinton is so fond of saying...
Looking at the Monmouth Poll, overall they give Romney a +3 edge nationally, 48 to 45.  According to their crosstabs by race and ethnicity (posted here), the first tab below shows the data as collected and reported by the Monmouth Poll, including their estimates of the share each racial group will comprise of the electorate.  If you take the vote percentages for each candidate times the share of the electorate that Monmouth gives each group, you can arrive at the contribution that each racial group makes towards the overall support numbers for each candidate.
Assuming the data as reported by Monmouth, Latinos would add 5.8 points to Obama and 5.0 point to Romney, a net edge of 0.8 points towards Obama.  However, in tab 2, we plug in the 8-poll average among Latinos as reported above, 70.3 to 21.9.  Here, we see Latinos contribute 8.4 points to Obama and 2.6 to Romney, a net edge of 5.8 points towards Obama.  With this adjustment, that 5 point swing in the overall national data towards Obama takes what was a +3 .6 advantage for Romney and turns it into a +1.5 advantage for Obama, 47.6 to 46.1.  This is the exact story of the 2010 Nevada data in which poll after poll showed Angle ahead of Reid, and Latinos only slightly breaking to Reid.  On Election Day Reid won by 5 points, an 8-point swing from the poll average, and he carried Latinos 90-to-10.

However, we might also look at the Monmouth (or any of the national polls) data among Blacks and expect they have underestimated the Black vote for Obama.  Rather than carrying 82% of the African American vote, a more realistic prediction is that Obama will win 92% (or more) of the African American vote.  A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 94% of Blacks planning to vote for Obama and 0% for Romney.  If we add 10 points to the Black vote for Obama - an adjustment I doubt anyone would disagree with - we find a full additional point in favor of Obama nationally, 48.7% to 46.1%.
Dozens of polls this year are making these exact same errors that Harry Pachon and Rudy de la Garza pointed out 14 years ago.  And by the way, their report title carried the phrase "Again!" because they pointed out that polls in California in 1994 and 1996 had made similar mistakes in underestimating the Latino vote.
If these mistakes are being made nationally where Latinos comprise an estimated 10% of all voters, they are even worse in statewide polls in Nevada, Florida, Colorado and Arizona where Latinos comprise an even larger share of all voters.  In Florida Latinos are estimated at 17% of all voters.  If you are badly mis-calculating the candidate preference among 17% of the electorate (that's 1 out of every 6 voters), then the entire statewide estimates are wrong. A PPP poll out yesterday in Florida had Romney leading 49 to 46 among Latinos in Florida, and overall Romney was ahead 48 to 47.  The PPP poll likely had around 130 Hispanic respondents, all interviewed via robotic IVR method, which has notoriously low and problematic response rates among Latinos. A Latino Decisions October poll showed Florida Latinos backing Obama 61 to 31.
Understanding, and accurately polling the Latino electorate is important not just for the sake of getting a correct portrait of Latino voters, but because they are such a large part of the overall electorate that "missing the Latino vote" ultimately results in missing the true vote of the entire electorate, whether in a swing state, or nationally.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Latino's perspective on Romney being Mexican

Romney better off as a Latino?
By Ruben Navarrette, CNN

(CNN) -- Sometimes a story comes along that is so utterly ridiculous that, as a commentator, your first instinct is to deal with it tongue-in-cheek.

And so it is with Mitt Romney's videotaped remarks to a roomful of donors at a fundraiser in May in Boca Raton, Florida. The GOP presidential candidate appears to say that he wishes he were Latino because he thinks it would be "helpful" to his quest and give him a "better shot" at the presidency.

Referring to his father, George, Romney told the audience:

"My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to  Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

I'm tempted to respond with this: "Mitt Romney thinks it would be helpful if he were Latino. Well, Mitt, I'm Latino. And I think it would be helpful to me if I were worth $250 million. Wanna switch?"
Or, given President Barack Obama's heavy-handed immigration policies, with this: "What Mitt Romney doesn't realize is that if he were Mexican, there's a 94.6% chance that he would've already been deported by his opponent."

Romney's comments are clearly absurd, and so it's hard to take them seriously. Did the rich white guy really claim to want to be Latino because he thought it would help him win the presidency?

That's strange. Being Latino didn't seem to help Bill Richardson.

The former New Mexico governor ran for president in 2008, and he didn't get beyond the New Hampshire primary. Also, by Romney's logic, you would think that we've had a whole slew of Latinos elected president; there hasn't been a single one -- if you don't count Jimmy Smits playing President-elect Matt Santos on the final season of "The West Wing."

Romney should quit while he's ahead. Statistically, he has the golden ticket. He's a rich white male, and they're overrepresented in the exclusive club of the 44 individuals to ever serve as president. Barack Obama is an exception, and even he satisfies two of three characteristics: rich and male.

But, if Mitt really wants to get in touch with his inner Mexican, I think he'll find that it's not all churros and chocolate or pinatas and pan dulce. You see -- and you might find this hard to believe, Mitt -- but there is still a lot of discrimination in this country against Latinos as whites hunker down and try to hold on to what they have in the face of changing demographics.

For instance, Romney has two Harvard degrees, and so do I. But I'll go out on a limb here and guess that he never had anyone suggest that he was only admitted to that prestigious university because of affirmative action. Or that he is frequently told, as I am, to "go back to Mexico" -- which is ironic, given that, since I'm the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and Romney is the son of a Mexican immigrant, the GOP presidential candidate is one generation closer to the motherland than I am.

Yet, as difficult as it is, we must take Romney's comments seriously. There are three reasons that they're troubling.

First, judging from the videotape, when Romney suggested that his path to the White House would have been covered in rose petals if only he had been born Mexican, the crowd loved it. What are they thinking?

Are these the kind of people who tell themselves that their sons and daughters would have gotten into Yale or Princeton if some black kid hadn't taken their spot? Do they really believe that racial and ethnic minorities have it easy in this country? And if so, what country are they living in?

Second, if you look at the rest of Romney's remarks -- about the 47% of Americans who pay no taxes and "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" -- he makes a good point. Many Americans do have an entitlement mentality, and it's a real problem.

Where Romney went wrong is that the sense of entitlement isn't limited to those on government aid. It includes the kind of fat cat donors who were in the audience. They get tax breaks and corporate subsidies. They raise their kids to think they're entitled to not do the jobs that immigrants wind up doing. Romney scolded those who think they're entitled, and then he seemed to wink at the audience and tell them: "present company excluded."

Lastly, it's hard to come up with a better example of an American who sees himself as a victim with a sense of entitlement than Mitt Romney. Think about what he said. This was no joke.

Romney sounds frustrated. By suggesting that he'd have a better chance at winning this election if he were Latino, Romney is playing the victim. Poor me, I had the misfortune to be born a white male. It's clear that he thinks he was entitled to a much smoother path to the White House.

Is Romney able to fix what's broken with America? Or are people like Mitt Romney what's broken with America?

Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Perspective: GOP grooming Latinos, not Dems

Opinion: Republicans are grooming Latino leaders, Dems are not
by Jaime Rojas Jr. for NBCLatino

We saw this week the Democratic National Convention and its sea of diversity among its delegates on the Convention floor, a very stark contrast to the Republican National Convention faces we saw on television the week before. But behind the scenes, I see a very different picture regarding the grooming of Latino leadership for the future of American politics.

The Democrats paint a party of the “people” who represents the last frontier to protect what’s left of the American middle class. At the DNC, they showcased their Latino leadership. We saw my mayor, Antonio Villariagosa, prominently displayed as the chairman of the Convention. Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, is billed as the rising Latino star in the Democratic Party.

The RNC, on the other hand, spotlighted their chosen ones too: Congressman Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and Governor Susanna Martinez of New Mexico. So we ask: “Which political party is really grooming our future Latino leadership?” My short answer is….the Republican party. Here is why: The Democrats, with all their fanfare of diversity, really has no real infrastructure on a national or state level focused on grooming Latino leadership. Since Latinos just happen to make a large number in their party, really by default they have taken some leadership roles. And if you think about it, Democratic Latinos are not really in too many high level positions like governors or senior ranking congresspersons, considering the number of Latinos in the party.

The reason is simple. The Democratic Party has a “union” mentality when it comes to grooming its next leadership. You have to start practically at birth as a member of the Party and promote your way up the ladder, until it’s your time to eventually lead. Being from California, that process and mentality is obvious with the State Democrats and the union machine. So what real chance does a young Latino have of high level leadership in the Democratic Party, if they don’t follow this “promotional” leadership process…none.

The Republicans surprisingly enough, invested last year, on the national level into a fund specifically to identify and groom 100 top Latino leaders for the Party. Impressive? Well, the fund only started with less than 2 million dollars, which in today’s economy is not much, but it’s a start. For the first time we heard not just one but two Latinos, Congressman Marco Rubio and Governor Susanna Martinez on the short list for Vice President! We recently saw Congressman Ted Cruz come in and shock everyone with his win in Texas. He had some support (money) of the RNC too.

I believe the Republican party has the better chance of grooming and possibly delivering Latino political leaders that actually will not only look like us, but also represent us appropriately. Believe it or not, Latinos’ beliefs are very similar to those of the GOP: family, fiscal conservancy, small government, and support of entrepreneurship and business. Yes, I know, shocking but very true. With our potential voting power, Latinos can vote into office (or take out of office) the right candidate to represent and act on our legislative needs. What is good for Latinos is good for America…and what is good for America is good for Latinos!

The Latino community must continue investing in ourselves and believe that our time is here now. We must support leadership-training beginning with our youth, and support national organizations like the National Hispanic Institute, based out of Texas, who go after our cream of the crop of Latino youth and train them to think like leaders and entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility, no one else’s, to train, groom and support America’s future leadership! Let’s all take this call for action….it is really the American thing to do, no que no?

Jaime Rojas Jr. worked for The White House’s Office of Public Liaison and Latino outreach for President Bill Clinton, and for The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. He is also the former President and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CHCC) and he wrote his first book in 2011 titled, “The Conservative’s Pocket Constitution.” Follow Jaime on Twitter @Jaime_Rojas

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New York politics about to change in favor of Latinos

The Ethical Fall
of Vito Lopez:
Implications for the Future of
Brooklyn Latino Politics
By Angelo Falcón (August 25, 2012)

 Ethics: Moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior.
---Oxford Dictionary

Angelo Falcon BW
The sudden announcement of major ethical violations by Brooklyn power broker Vito Lopez by the NYS Assembly of which he has been a member since 1984 took everyone by surprise. It was widely known that he was being investigated for funny business concerning his nonprofit, the Bushwick Ridgewood Senior Citizens Council and its very very well-paid Director, his long-time girlfriend, Angela Battagli. But, to be severely censured by the Assembly for the sexual harassment of his female staff? No one really saw that coming!

This situation makes it obligatory to point out that, despite his surname, he is an Italian-American and not a Latino (although I understand that he claims he has a grandparent from Spain). However, depending on his immediate political fortunes, and calls for his resignation will no doubt emerge as the county's district leaders prepare to meet as you read this, this could have a profound impact on the nature of Latino politics and politics in general in Brooklyn. But ever since Lopez was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1993 and treated for the recurrence of cancer in 2010, the Brooklyn political class has, in many cases begrudgingly, learned over the years not to count him out prematurely.

His loss of his chairmanship of the powerful Housing Committee, of his seniority and eligibility to hold any leadership positions in the Assembly severely undercut his influence in that body, and were made all that more humiliating by his being barred from, get this, hiring any staff under 21 years of age or employing any interns. Besides his continued viability as a state legislator, questions will no doubt quickly arise as to his fitness to continue as Chair of the Kings County Democratic Party (his predecessor in this position, by the way, was Clarence Norman Jr., who is currently serving a prison sentence for three felony counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions).

The recent Democratic primary in Congressional district 7 largely covering northern Brooklyn, where incumbent Nydia Velazquez readily beat back three challengers, was generally viewed as a political battle between Velazquez and surrogates for Vito Lopez (some even speculated that all three of her challengers were put up by Lopez). The downfall of Lopez would leave a political vacuum that favors a stronger local role for politicians like Velazquez and the network of progressive reformers she is associated with, whyich now includes term-limited Councilmember and former Lopez chief of staff Diana Reyna. While it is difficult to determine what will happen to the leadership of the county organization at this point, the political demise of Lopez also means the at least temporary weakening of the King County Democratic political machine.

This would have immediate repercussions for the Dilan political family. Two strong allies of Lopez are State Senator Martin Dilan and his son Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan (as well as the younger Dilan's former chair of staff and now Assemblyman Rafael Espinal). Senator Dilan is currently being challenged in next month's Democratic primary by reformer Jason Otaño, who is backed by Velazquez. Councilmember Dilan is term-limited and his seat will be open, and it looks like Make the Road staffer Jesus Gonzalez (who recently lost in a squeaker to Espinal for the Assembly) will be making a run at that open seat. Then there is scandal-ridden Bronx Assembywoman Naomi Rivera's current boyfriend, Tommy Torres, who was reportedly planning a run to replace Reyna in the City Council with the backing of Lopez.

There are also the Latino politicos further south in the borough in the Sunset Park area. These are Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and Councilmember Sara Gonzalez. Ortiz is a politically shrewd character who will no doubt maneuver his way well through whatever party leadership changes occur, insulated in part by his relatively new role as head of the Assembly's Puerto Rican/Hispanic Legislative Task Force and its Somos El Futuro Conferences, and his role as President of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Councilmember Gonzalez is up for reelection next year in a redistricted district and her main concern will be negotiating a relationship with the area's growing Asian population and White gentrifiers.

Will this opening in the leadership of the Brooklyn Democratic machine create an opportunity for a greater Latino role in running party politics in the borough? Will Brooklyn White ethnic leaders like Borough President Marty Markovitz and the Black leadership see this as a chance to more fully partner with the county's growing Latino electorate? Will they see this, as one witty boricua commentator told me, as an opportunity to finally replace Vito with a real Latino in place of a Latino "in last name only."  

The political repercussions of Lopez' fall from grace will be many, but it will be interesting to see how it affects that nature of Latino politics in the Brooklyn. It is significant that these days potentially progressive political change seems to emerge more from the rubble of exposed scandal and corruption rather than wholesome and principled civic engagement. And it is sad to say that even the possibility of something positive coming from these political disasters is never even assured.

Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP), for which he edits The NiLP Network on Latino Issues. He is co-editor of the book, Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City.He can be reached at