Latino Activists Respond to Jan Brewer's 'They Don't Vote' Remark

Jan Brewer is drawing criticism for comments she made about Latino voters.EXPAND
Jan Brewer is drawing criticism for comments she made about Latino voters.

Did Jan Brewer put her foot in her mouth this past Friday? A lot of Arizona Latinos think so. 

In an interview with the Boston Globe this past Friday, the former Arizona governor was asked whether she thinks Latinos will play a significant role in helping Hillary Clinton win Arizona, a state that has gone for the Democratic presidential candidate just once in the past 64 years.

Her response: "Nah. They don't get out and vote. They don't vote."

Brewer's appraisal made headlines nationwide, and it didn't go over well, especially in Arizona.

"To be clear, more Latinos will vote in Arizona this year than ever before," says Ian Danley, director of One Arizona, a coalition of 14 groups working to increase Latino turnout in the state. "We will continue to register Latinos to vote and engaging our communities to get out and vote and prove her wrong."

Historically, Latino voter turnout has been low in Arizona. But that's starting to change. This year, One Arizona has registered more than 150,000 new voters, the vast majority of them Latinos.

And Danley says the group's work is far from done. From now until the November 8 election, members of One Arizona plan to knock on doors in predominantly Latino neighborhoods to encourage voters to cast their ballots. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials projects that about 433,000 Latinos will vote in Arizona this year, an 8 percent increase from 2012 and a nearly 38 percent over 2008.

A recent Univision poll shows Clinton is by far the leading choice among Latino voters in Arizona, with 68 percent saying they support her and 18 percent saying they support Donald Trump, who alienated many Latinos when he kicked off his presidential campaign by referring to Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, and rapists. Other polls show Clinton holding a narrower lead.

If she wins here, she'll be the first Democrat do so since her husband, Bill Clinton, won in 1996.

Brewer, who endorsed Trump in February, tried to walk back her comments by saying via Twitter on Saturday that "it’d be great to have 100% turnout for all demographics in 2016."

But Latino leaders were quick to pounce on Brewer’s initial remark, which they hope will motivate Latinos to vote this year.

"If this doesn't get fire under our bellies to go out and vote, I don't know what will," says State Senator Catherine Miranda, a Democrat. "My message for all Latinos, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, is to get out to vote and prove her wrong."

As governor, Brewer signed SB 1070 into law in 2010. It allows police officers to question the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.

The passage of SB 1070 galvanized Latinos, like Montserrat Arredondo Duran, to get involved. Ever since, she has been working to help Latinos build political power in Arizona, where they make up 31 percent of the population and 22 percent of the electorate.

Arredondo Duran says Brewer's comment helped motivate volunteers who were out this weekend asking Latino voters when they plan to vote and letting them know about their polling locations.

"Folks didn't really mention it at the doors, but our volunteers and our organizers did hear about it,” she says. "They were really affected by it."

Francisco Heredia, national field director for Mi Familia Vota, also saw a similar reaction among his group's volunteers.

"These type of comments that attack our community — that belittle our community — I think they are, for us, clear motivators," Heredia says.

Even before the Globe published its Brewer interview, some were predicting an increase in Latino turnout in Arizona. They say Latinos are excited to vote not only against Trump, but also to prevent Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from being elected to a seventh term.

"Before Jan Brewer's statement, we were already confident that we were going to go out and vote," Miranda says. "It's just that her statement came now and made it look like Latinos aren't going to go out and vote. But in fact we are, and our state is going to go blue."


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