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Hispanic Dems push Hillary for a seat at the table

Hispanic Dems push Hillary for a seat at the table
© Greg Nash

Hispanic Democrats are demanding that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE appoint Latinos to her administration in high-profile roles, as they look to move beyond their disappointment that she didn't tap a Hispanic running mate.

Hispanic leaders had expressed high hopes that one of their own would make history this year after they helped President Obama win two presidential elections and tapped Clinton as the first female nominee from any major party.

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Clinton considered Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Housing Secretary Julian Castro for vice president before deciding on Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 Five takeaways from the vice presidential debate MORE, a Virginia Democrat who speaks fluent Spanish.

"For the first time, we had two individuals that were really, adequately and strongly considered for vice president," said former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

"I happen to think that they should've gotten it, but they didn't."

Richardson, a Mexican-American and former secretary of Energy, said the party has taken positive steps but that more still needs to be done to put Hispanics in positions of power.

Hispanic Dems have been among Clinton's most fervent supporters in 2016 and in her failed 2008 bid.

And their support could be crucial in her general election battle with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE. Hispanics are expected to be a key constituency in the battleground states of Florida, Colorado and Nevada, and to a lesser degree in Pennsylvania and Virginia. 

Some, though, say Democrats have only given lip service to Latino advancement and that the Clinton camp needs to prove itself.

"Things are changing in a good way but there’s still a lot of talented Latinos that get passed over at lots of different levels," said Chuck Rocha, president of Solidarity Strategies, the political strategy firm that worked on Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas MORE presidential campaign.

While most leaders were reluctant to directly highlight specific snubs, current and former officials, activists and business leaders all argued Clinton's cabinet should include more Latinos. 

President Obama's cabinet currently has three Hispanic members: Perez, Castro and Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the Small Business Administration. Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE is of Portuguese descent, but does not consider himself Hispanic.

"With the new administration, we're going to be asking for at least four cabinet positions," said Kenneth Romero-Cruz, executive director of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators.

Romero-Cruz argued that for a cabinet to be "representational," its composition should be proportional to the composition of the population as a whole.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sees a larger issue at hand, explaining that many Democrats still struggle to represent their Latino constituents.

"I think that we still have candidates who are really getting comfortable with the Latino community," said Garcetti.

There are signs, though, that Latino politicians are consistently obtaining more positions of power in both major parties.

Both the House Democratic Caucus and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are run by Hispanic lawmakers, Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia Republicans agree not to use unofficial ballot drop boxes Schwarzenegger: California GOP has gone 'off the rails' with unofficial ballot boxes California GOP won't comply with order on unofficial ballot drop boxes MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

Becerra too was seen by some as a potential Clinton running mate.

Republicans boast the nation's two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez (N.M.) and Brian Sandoval (Nev.).

However, there is still a sense that Hispanics get "passed over" for important positions or political rewards in a disproportionate manner.

Javier Palomarez, CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (HCC), endorsed Clinton at the Republican Convention, the group's first presidential endorsement in its 30-year history.

"We're disappointed that there hasn't been a more marked opportunity for us to engage here at the DNC," said Palomarez of the Clinton campaign's response to his endorsement. Palomarez quickly added that he would not reduce his commitment to Clinton's cause, saying the Hispanic Chamber is part of the "team" that will elect Clinton.

While Hispanic political influence has demonstrably risen, community leaders hope for more, given the demographic's quick growth and relative youth. The average age for Hispanics in the United States is 27, while for the population as a whole it's 37.

Hispanic leaders say a strong presence in a Clinton cabinet would only be the first step.

"A cabinet position isn't enough," said Garcetti. "We need to see a leadership pathway for the young generation."

Richardson explained the growth of Hispanic political media and political consultants like Rocha will help get the "community in the levers of power."

"Maybe we didn't get selected for VP, but for the future, what are the goals of the community? Get more Latinos elected, but at the same time start looking at the prizes that are out there," said Richardson.