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Biden should choose a Latina as his running mate

Greg Nash

If the primary were held today in the Gutiérrez family, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would be the hands down winner. Like a lot of Latinos, we are impressed with the senator’s strategy of outreach to Latino voters and he has the most progressive approach to immigration. He correctly sees immigration as an urgent civil rights issue for Latinos and is prepared to act aggressively to stop the deportations that are breaking up our families and revamp the immigration system so that people have legal options to stay here or to reunite as families. His campaign demonstrated what I have been telling Democrats throughout my long career in Congress: that it will pay off if you invest in your relationship with Latino voters and talk to us in more than just token ways – not just about immigration or Puerto Rico or in a few words of Spanish, but about kitchen table issues like health care, opportunity and education that motivate our families, like all American families.

However, even with the Gutiérrez family’s votes in Illinois and Puerto Rico – and noting Sanders will overwhelmingly carry the 4th District of Illinois, which I used to represent and is now represented by a key Sanders lieutenant, Rep. Chuy Garcia — the support of Latino primary voters will not be enough to put “Tio Bernie” over the top and Joe Biden is for all intents and purposes the presumptive Democratic nominee. This sets up an opportunity for the vice president — who was part of one of the most historically significant political moments in American history — to make a significant and historic decision to strengthen his hand and win the White House.

Having announced that a woman will be his ticket, Biden should pick a Latina as his running mate and announce that very soon.

Obviously, the best qualified and most popular Hispanic woman — Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, my fellow Puerto Rican — would be the best choice, but we cannot afford to take her away from the Supreme Court where she is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Ruth Bader Ginsberg to defend what is left of our democracy. Another candidate I might put forward, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — the woman my wife, upon seeing her for the first time on YouTube said “She’ll be president someday” — is out because she is not old enough to run. We’ll all have a chance to vote for her soon enough.

But there is no shortage of other qualified women from the Latino community who could strengthen the Biden ticket, bring both women and Latinos decisively to his side and chart a path to defeating Donald Trump.

Let’s start with the senior senator from Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto, who may not be a household name, but brings many strengths to the table. She comes from the West and is a former prosecutor and Nevada attorney general with impeccable credentials who during her short career in the Senate – the first Latina ever and first Hispanic from Nevada — has emerged as a leader on environmental and health care issues from one of the fastest growing and most dynamic American states.

Then there is my friend Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of another dynamic state, New Mexico. When she and I served in Congress and she was chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I witnessed her abilities and leadership up close and personal. She is dogged and loveable at the same time and does not shy away from speaking truth to power, even to fellow Democrats. She has been a successful governor and has continued her laser-like focus on being a voice for Latinos and immigrants in her state and nationally.

While there are many qualified women to choose from, a Latina on the ticket adds an extra layer of heavyweight politics. Our population is young, mobilized and engaged. A million Latino citizens turn 18 every year and another 3.5 million immigrants — many of them Latinos — have become citizens just since Trump took office (833,000 last year), despite all of the obstacles he has erected to legal immigrants. Latinos are estimated to make up 13 percent of the electorate — the largest bloc of minority voters — and we are energized and ready to vote Donald Trump out of office.

But Mr. Vice President, recall that Barack Obama lost to Hillary Clinton when it came to Latino voters in every 2008 primary. You have an opportunity to come back and energize the Latino electorate and win the White House, but it will take a bold move for my community to come out in historic numbers. A Latina like Sen. Cortez Masto or Gov. Lujan Grisham on the ticket will strengthen your hand with the primary voters who went to Sanders and you can once again make a definitive, double-historic V.P. selection by choosing a Latina. Let’s show America that the glass ceiling for women in American politics is over. I have no doubt that when she takes office, she will have the very best mentor on how to be an effective and successful vice president as her running mate.

Luis V. Gutiérrez is a senior policy advisor to the National Partnership for New Americans and served 13 terms in Congress (1993-2019).

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Catherine Cortez Masto Chuy Garcia Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Michelle Lujan Grisham Sonia Sotomayor

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