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Black, Latino officials barnstorm for Obama

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO

At University of New Hampshire, District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson has been firing up crowds of students, registering them to vote and securing pledges that their ballots will be cast for President Obama come Nov. 6.

At University of North Carolina Greensboro, State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry has been rallying students for the Obama campaign, securing votes for the president through that state’s same-day registration and early balloting process. Forry, who is Haitian-American, has also been interviewed on Haitian creole radio stations, black radio stations and in other news media to drum up support for Obama.

The local politicians are part of an Obama campaign strategy to use officials in safe states like Massachusetts — states where his campaign is assured victory in November — to campaign in the so-called battleground states where neither his campaign nor the campaign of former Gov. Mitt Romney has a secure majority of votes.

“Folks need to realize that in 2000, if Gore had won New Hampshire, Florida wouldn’t have mattered,” Jackson says. “He lost New Hampshire by just 7,000 votes.”

At-large City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo was deployed to Denver, Colo. to speak on behalf of the Obama campaign during the first presidential debate.

“I was speaking to what Romney’s record was as governor of Massachusetts and at the same time speaking about who would be a better president for Latinos and people of color,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo’s bi-lingual credentials helped make him a valuable asset to the Obama campaign in Colorado, where much of the media market is Spanish-speaking. He conducted interviews with Denver affiliates of Univision, Telemundo, Mundo Fox and local Spanish print and radio outlets as well as with mainstream media.

“Romney was a pretty bad governor and his record shows [that],” Arroyo says. “When he was governor of Massachusetts, the state was 47th out of 50 states in job creation. He really doesn’t have a record of creating jobs.”

State Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz has taken to the airwaves as a representative of the Obama campaign. On Tuesday morning she appeared on New England Cable News, blasting Romney for his flip-flopping on issues.

 “I can imagine that it is difficult for an undecided voter to make a decision at this point because they’re hearing really inconsistent, wildly swinging different statements from Governor Romney about what he believes in and what his plans are for this country,” she said.

The most prominent Massachusetts politician stumping for the president, of course, is Gov. Deval Patrick, who has drawn fire from Republicans here for leaving the state during the fallout from the evidence-tampering scandal at the state drug lab and the distribution of fungal-meningitis-tainted pharmaceuticals from a Framingham drug firm.

State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, who is chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, has had to navigate those same crises at home while traveling on behalf of the Obama campaign in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Iowa, Colorado and Illinois.

Sanchez says his district has a lot riding on the success of the Obama administration’s pledge to invest in programs that benefit local communities.

“We’ve built hundreds of units of housing because of federal, state and local government investment,” he says. “On health care, we were at a point where 70 percent of black and Hispanic people had health insurance. Now, 95 percent of us are covered. With Romney, you don’t know what you will get.”

Jackson argues that many of his constituents would be negatively impacted by the cuts to government programs Romney is promising.

“This election will decide whether we are going to stop investing in our young people and take away our investment in our old people,” he says. “The Republicans have a policy of ‘I got mine.’ We have an economy that is continuing to grow. We need to continue that growth and allow Obama to continue what he started.”

Forry, too, has been highlighting contradictions between the Romney on the campaign trail and the Romney who governed Massachusetts.

While Romney signed Massachusetts’ health insurance reform law, on the campaign trail he has railed against the nearly identical national health care law pushed through by the Obama administration.

“Governor Romney had an opportunity to lead on that issue,” Forry says. “When he ran in the primary, he ran away from it.”

Sanchez, who served in the Legislature while Romney was governor, says he also challenges Romney’s assertion that he was a bipartisan governor.

“He vetoed us 840 times,” Sanchez says. “We overrode more than 700 of his vetoes.”

One of those vetoes was a provision in the state’s health care law that requires Mass Health to provide coverage for immigrants who are documented Massachusetts residents.

“He vetoed documented immigrants,” Arroyo says. “It was a stunning move. No one expected that. The Legislature overrode the veto.”

Romney’s veto, along with his move to rescind pre-existing executive orders mandating affirmative action in state government, did not earn the ex-governor much sympathy from Latinos and blacks in Massachusetts. And when black and Latino officials form Massachusetts bring that message to black and Latino communities across the U.S., it won’t likely help Romney move past the 25 percent mark for support among Latinos or the 0 percent support he’s polling at with blacks.

Sanchez says much of the work the Obama campaign is engaged in is mobilizing black and Latino communities to vote. And in the eight states he’s visited, the Obama campaign seems to have an edge in voter mobilization.

“In every state the Obama campaign has a straight-out ground operation,” he says. “When you ask what Romney has on the ground it’s nothing like what we have. He has a communication person, but no grassroots.”

Sanchez and other Latino and black elected officials are also helping with the get-out-the-vote effort in Massachusetts — canvassing, participating in rallies and making phone calls on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. In fact, it was during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show where Obama’s campaign staff first saw Arroyo commenting on Warren’s first debate with incumbent Sen. Scott Brown.

“I got a phone call,” Arroyo says. “They said they saw me on the show and asked if I’d go to Denver. I was stunned. I’m a kid from Hyde Park who went to public school. To have the re-election campaign of the president of the United States call me was unreal.”