My grandparents were both born and raised in the United States. They both speak English, but when they watch the news, they watch the news and most of their television in Spanish. Even though they speak English they are more comfortable with Spanish. My grandfather says he understands it better. Spanish language television is their main source of information and news, which makes it very difficult for them to be educated voters if the Spanish news is not covering campaign races.
In Chicago, Univision and other television stations have both complained about being shorthanded on staff. They are so shorthanded that Univision has stated they are only covering the Senate Race, the Governor’s race, and the County Board President race. This means that there are many state and county wide candidates that Spanish-speaking voters, like my grandparents, will know nothing about.
During these difficult times, when our state is struggling with budget issues, the Treasurer and Comptroller race, are extremely important to all people, but especially Latinos. Univision has decided not to cover these races, like Robin Kelly running for Illinois State Treasurer. In fact, Ms. Kelly’s race is important for another reason; her opponent Dan Rutherford has received $125,000 from Jimmy Johns Founder James Liautaud. Rutherford and Liautaud have an interest in keeping minimum wage down, Liautaud for his fast sandwich business and Rutherford has voted against minimum wage increases as a state senator since it was $5.15 an hour.
But what is more telling about this contribution is that Liautaud’s Jimmy Johns has contributed to “Sheriff Command Association,” which ran a smear campaign that helped re-elect Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio is the anti-immigrant Sheriff from Arizona who encouraged the pushing of AZ SB 1070, the controversial Arizona immigration law that allowed for racial profiling, and is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into allegations of discrimination against Latinos. If the Latino media does not cover this, then how will people know about the candidates? Who will hold the candidate accountable for expressing his or her views on immigration and other issues facing our communities? How will Spanish-speaking Latinos get informed on this race? When they head to the polls on November 2nd they will be missing critical information if the Spanish media does not step up to the plate.
Another race Univision has yet to cover is the Cook County Assessor’s race. Joe Berrios was the first Latino elected to the Illinois General Assembly. He currently sits on the Board of Review, and is also the first Latino to serve as Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. If elected in November he will be the first Latino to serve as Cook County Assessor. This is a huge stride for the Latino community. Berrios has promised that as the next assessor he will work hard to reach out to the special needs of the Latino neighborhoods when assessing properties.
Berrios held a press conference earlier this month where two dozen Latino elected officials including Congressman Luis Gutierrez endorsed him for Cook County Assessor, and yet it was not covered by Univision. This is a race Latinos should care about, but has yet to get the Latino press coverage it deserves.
While I can understand the dilemma of cutting back and a shortage of staff, there are some things that cannot be sacrificed. Spanish media outlets have a duty to help educate Latino voters on candidates. I feel all news should be unbiased and informative, but Spanish media outlets have a much greater duty to provide this service, because there is less competition. In addition, viewers, readers, and listeners are more reliant on the information these sources provide them with. I also believe that if there is more coverage of these races, candidates on all sides will have to make a stronger effort to reach out the Latino community, and therefore making them more accountable for their actions once they are in office.
Informed voters can also mean a little more excitement about the midterm elections. Latinos are known for not participating in midterm elections, but this can change with informed options and inspiration to get out and make a difference. The Spanish media is a great resource for reaching these voters and creating an opportunity to inspire. Especially this year, where Latinos definitely have the opportunity to make a difference in the midterm elections.
My grandparents have a lot to lose, but even more to gain in this election. They deserve to know the candidates who are getting their votes.
Photo Credit: Cristina Villarreal, Latino elected officials
Cristina Villarreal is a guest blogger from Being Latino writing from Chicago, Illinois.