José Cárdenas: Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy opened a new center dedicated to Latinos and public policy. Its first report, "Arizona's Emerging Latino Vote", was released this summer and examined the impact of the Latino vote in the state. Joining me tonight to talk about the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center is the center's first director, Joseph Garcia. Joe, it's good to have you back on "Horizonte." You've been a guest before, wearing different hats. You have an extensive background in journalism but connected to what you're doing now.
Joseph Garcia: Absolutely. Still informing the about important issues. Just right now with my role at the Morrison institute it’s the focus on Latino issues but how Latino public policy affects all of Arizona. In other words, there aren't two issues here. There isn't Latino issues and then Arizona issues. They're all one and the same. You can't separate them.
José Cárdenas: So before we get into the specifics of what you have already done and what's coming up, tell us how the center came to be.
Joseph Garcia: Well, we were talking at Morrison as the think tank does and we were talking about the changing demographics in Arizona and how it was basically the brown and the gray, if you will. Non-Latino whites are moving into retirement and the young population coming up are all Latinos. Almost all virtually U.S. citizens, by the way, born here or naturalized. We're talking about a legal population. There are a lot of myths that we have that we need to overcome and the only way to do that is through education, through awareness, through facts, through data. We're looking at, you know, hard evidence to make the case that, you know, Latino issues are Arizona issues.
José Cárdenas: And what would be some of those myths that you're referring to?
Joseph Garcia: You look at our educational system, k-12. This year, there are more Latino kids in our k-12 system than white kids. But these are all -- almost all exclusive. It's 99% when you talk about children that are five years and younger, and just almost entirely all U.S. citizens. The kids coming through the pipeline are U.S. citizens. This is Arizona. We need to look at the changing face of Arizona, and realize it's nothing to be afraid of or run from. There's opportunity. We have a workforce coming up that can help us build the new economy but what kind of a workforce are we going to have? Are they going to be a workforce that's trained, skilled and highly educated and one that can help Arizona compete or are we looking at Arizona dropping down to a second or third-tier state because we have a low-income, low-educated workforce?
José Cárdenas: So you said it's nothing to be afraid of, this change in the demographics but if you're a Republican, isn't this something to be concerned? Isn't what your first report indicates?
Joseph Garcia: Our first report is talking about the sea change in the political landscape for Arizona that's going to be happening, largely because Latinos vote democratic, even if they belong to the independent party. The large number of Latinos coming up, the youth, in the next 15 years, when they're able to vote, probably will largely vote democratic but that can change. The Republican party can change and I think there's the understanding that this may be the last election you can win without the Latino vote. All future elections, if you don't get the Latino vote, you probably aren't going to win the election.
José Cárdenas: So if current trends hold up and if Latinos continue to vote democratic, this state is going to go from a deeply red state to probably a pretty strong blue state.
Joseph Garcia: That's one of the projections we did. We did a few projections based on enrollment and registration and voting habits, behavior and so forth and we're looking at perhaps 2025, 2030 when Arizona can change from a conservative red state to a more liberal blue state, a democratic state, which could be a big change. But as you know, nothing's written in stone when you're talking about the future. These are projections. The Republican Party can become more of a moderate party, more outreaching towards Latino voters on issues that they agree on, when it comes to immigration issues they may take a little more moderate, temperate approach. So a lot can change between now and then.
José Cárdenas: And there are moderate Hispanic Latino Republicans, some of whom say that setting aside the immigration issue where they think the Republican Party has become too vociferous, the basic values of the basic Republican Party are the same as the Hispanic community, is that what your survey showed.
Joseph Garcia: You're talking about issues of faith and patriotism and family and these issues, abortion, dealing with catholic faith and many different 5 things, they do align very nicely but when you talk about education, that is such a key issue in the Latino community because they know this is the great equalizer. The great chance to better education. When you talk about immigration, it can't be the hard line where you have a father and mother, brother and sister deported because they're here without documentation. Those things all impact you and social scientists tell us that, around 8 years old strt you know, around eight years old we start forming our opinions that kind of last a lifetime. So the hardline immigration issues that Republicans do today are going to be felt tomorrow and for years to come. But that doesn’t mean there isn't change. Look at Mitt Romney, he was probably the most conservative anti, hardline immigration candidate in the primary and he's softened it towards the general, including which he said he would allow for a dreamers act to allow the young Latino kids who are here without documentation to stay in the country. There's a moderation even now I think we're seeing.
José Cárdenas: But is it going to make any difference? All the polls seem to indicate that President Obama's going to get about 75% of the Latino vote nationwide.
Joseph Garcia: It may not make a difference in this election but I think it's going to make a difference in future elections. There's an old guard now that's moving aside after this election cycle. The new guard will come in for the Republican party and I think they're very in tune with what the demographics are telling them and as far as the future of voters. So I think there will be a change.
José Cárdenas: Now, I know your view in the report is more long-term. But let's talk a little bit about the impact the Latino vote may have in this election, first nationally. Is it going to be enough Obama--.
Joseph Garcia: A lot of people do think it's going to be the difference, the Latino vote. It's always the case the Latino voters. Are they cast ballots?
José Cárdenas: Which has been a promise.
Joseph Garcia: I mean the numbers are there. That's why many of the Latino voting advocates have been pushing for the mail-in ballot. Because Latinos, largely blue-collar workforce. Sometimes, they're 20, 30 miles away from the polling place, they get there, it's closed, on either side: opening or close. So they're not able to vote. If you take the ballot measure and you vote and you send it in, your vote's counted. You don't have to deal with it.
José Cárdenas: We made national news recently with the hubbub about the mistakes on some bookmarks and other materials that were issued in Spanish and had the wrong voting date. Do you see any kind of conspiracy there?
Joseph Garcia: I guess you can look at conspiracy theories pretty heavily. My theory on the conspiracy theory is that I don't think they're that smart and I don't think they're that dumb that they would do this.
José Cárdenas: So at the local level, while Arizona probably almost certainly will go Republican at the presidential level, we've got some key congressional and local races at the Senate level. We've got Carmona against Flake. What do you think is going to happen there, Carmona being Puerto Rican?
Joseph Garcia: Well, there's a Latino interest for Carmona. He's Puerto Rican but he's also Latino. A lot of people think President Obama galvanized the Latino vote here when it came to the mini dreamer act that he passed as president or authorized.
José Cárdenas: The deferred action.
Joseph Garcia: The two-year work permit essentially. That's a big plus. Republicans didn't do themselves any favor when it came to S.B. 1070, pushing it again and again and again. That also probably galvanized some votes. Carmona's going to be an interest, too, that could get more Latinos to the polls, you know. It's just a matter of, you know, at this point, it's always get out the vote. Who's going to vote, who's going to show up? Who mailed the ballots in?
José Cárdenas: And unlike at least the perception that Romney has gone towards more the middle, Jeff Flake hasn't done the same thing.
Joseph Garcia: No he really hasn’t. --I think he's shoring up his base so he doesn't lose any towards former Republican leaders, Surgeon General, which is Carmon. So perhaps he's showing up that Republican vote. But he is not going towards the middle and I think perhaps a lot of independents votes there are going to be left on the table for Jeff Flake.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk quickly about two other elections. One, the race for sheriff in Maricopa county. You’ve got Paul Penzone, Maggie
Joseph Garcia: All right, well as an observer of political races, it's a little bit different from what the senator does. I mean, I think it's very hard to overcome the amount of money and notoriety that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has out there. I know this will be the closest race we’ve had in years.
José Cárdenas: And what about Jerry Lewis who was the beneficiary of the recall effort mounted against Senator Pierce, which was led by a lot of Latinos? Elections that followed thought Latinos played a critical role, there. Now, he's up against an incumbent Democratic state senator. I would think Latinos would have some divided loyalties.
Joseph Garcia: You would think so but what you're seeing, overall, is the moderation of the state legislature. It's happening largely through redistricting and also that we're looking at a post-S.B. 1070 Arizona and I think that Arizona is looking towards the future now and not so much hung up on this very contentious and divisive issue, which has kept Arizona frozen in a battleground.
José Cárdenas: So speaking of moving beyond, what are we going to be seeing in the future from the Latino Public Policy Institute?
Joseph Garcia: We're working on -- we have a great advisory board, which we meet with and we're going to be meeting with soon again but they give us a lot of issues and we look at this. We're looking at Latino housing, Latinos were especially hard hit by the housing market collapse. Many losses and forfeitures, how do Latinos reenter the housing market, this impacts everything. Talking about neighborhoods, we're talking about what makes for healthy Latino neighborhoods and after looking at pre-k, many people believe that if you don't get young children, especially Latinos, involved in pre-k education, it doesn't -- it almost doesn't matter what you do in the pipeline because you've lost them from the beginning. So Stan Barnes: that's going to be one of our next focuses, a playoff of our drop report, 11 years removed from our five shoes waiting to drop. The Latino education gap, nothing happens for Arizona, or toward Latinos unless we can close that gap and really move all of Arizona education forward.
José Cárdenas: Joe Garcia, director of the first Latino Public Policy Center, we look forward to talking to you about those other reports when you get them out. Thanks for joining us.