Hispanics on Clinton’s VP shortlist could help her win votes

Hillary Clinton’s shortlist of possible vice presidential candidates includes three top Hispanic officials whose selection could energize Hispanic voters in November.

The campaign is reportedly vetting California Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; Labor Secretary Tom Perez; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.  

{mosads}“The name that I’ve seen around the most is Castro because he is young, he’s a fresh face, and he has a distinguished and successful personal story of making it in the United States,” said Melisa Díaz, a Democratic consultant in Washington, D.C., who noted, “Obviously, it would be historic to have the first Hispanic on a presidential ticket.

“The [Clinton] campaign likes to highlight that type of message: of opportunity, of hard work, of making the country a better place for everyone,” she added. 

“Castro has all that in his favor, and it could help motivate younger voters to go to the polls in November for the Clinton ticket.”

Perez, a powerful public speaker with strong ties to unions and other groups important for Democrats, has been stumping for Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and speaking out against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“The difference between these two candidates could not be more stark. Donald Trump is a fraud. He’s in it all for himself,” Perez said this week on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

“The Trump train wreck is a train wreck for American values. It’s not what we stand for as a nation. We need someone who will bring us together, not someone who will divide us. He’s a disaster.” 

As is the norm, potential running mates have avoided direct talk about the selection process. Perez is no exception, telling Matthews, “I will leave that for Hillary Clinton to decide. I don’t know who they’re checking. You’d have to ask the campaign.”

Becerra, well known and regarded in the Hispanic community, is also a strong proponent of immigration reform. He has called Clinton the party’s “quarterback,” adding that he will take on any role she chooses. But he doesn’t bring a swing state to the table and is relatively unknown on the national stage. 

The three Hispanics figure prominently in an internal Republican National Committee (RNC) memo outlining strategies and plans of attack against each prospective Democratic candidate for the No. 2 spot on the ballot. 

The memo, published on Sunday by The Huffington Post, details “Project Pander,” a Republican effort to build “a framework to systematically dismantle the records of Hillary Clinton’s potential running mates.”

“Castro is very inexperienced, … has never had the national (or even state) media spotlight placed upon him for a sustained period of time, leading one to wonder whether his act will hold up over time,” says the memo. “Castro could easily be portrayed as a John Edwards-esque pick, whereby someone with good looks but a thin résumé is viewed as a novice on the national stage.”

On Becerra, the memo says, “Beyond the Beltway and community of Latino activists, Becerra has low name recognition despite twenty years in Congress,” adding, “[He] is an untrustworthy hypocrite. Becerra relishes dividing people along racial lines, supports policies favorable to illegal immigrants, and has been link to radical Hispanic organizations. Becerra is a shameless opportunist and career politician who betrayed key constituencies during his failed run for Mayor [of Los Angeles in 2001].” 

The memo mentions Perez as a “career federal bureaucrat” and not someone who is considered “a safe choice” for the Democratic ticket.

“His selection should terrify independents, swing voters, and businesses everywhere as it makes the ticket ultra-liberal. His selection could alienate independents and white voters throughout the critical states of the Midwest,” the GOP memo says.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), despite not being Hispanic himself, could be a Hispanic-friendly pick. Kaine, who lived in Honduras for a year, has the support of many Hispanics and could potentially bring independent and Republican voters from his crucial home state. 

“He speaks Spanish and has a solid relationship with the Latino community in Virginia. That is an asset for the community. Plus he has a lot of experience, as a mayor, a lieutenant governor, a governor and now senator,” Díaz said.

While the RNC memo mentions that Clinton wouldn’t pick Kaine “because he’s not a minority and not a liberal hero,” Hispanic Republicans say he makes the most sense for Democrats, especially if they want to reach beyond the party’s core constituents. 

“If Hillary Clinton has to pick a Democrat, it would be Tim Kaine,” said Danny Vargas, a marketing executive and Republican who ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates but lost in the primary earlier this year.

“Kaine is a good man, he is smart and I respect and admire him. He is very partisan at times, especially when he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee. From a policy perspective Becerra is a good choice, but Kaine has all the qualifications: legislative and executive experience, plus cultural sensitivity, and Virginia is hugely important in this year’s election. It bodes well for Senator Kaine [to be the pick].”  

Kaine, vetted as a potential running mate in 2008 by President Obama, brushed off criticism that he is “too safe” and “too boring” and not someone who would help energize the ticket. His stance on abortion could also cause problems with liberal voters. 

“Boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country,” he said this week on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 


— Patricia Guadalupe is a contributing writer for Latino Magazine.

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