Outreach Efforts Could Benefit Coto More than Hispanic Community

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party is attempting to make the political battlefield a bit more familiar this weekend with probably the largest day of action it has held since the 2008 election cycle. In particular, the event, which is taking place Saturday at the Labor Temple between 10am and noon, is going to focus on voter registration in “historically disengaged communities.” In other words, the county party is teaming up with local, community-based Democratic chapters to focus on Hispanic outreach in East San Jose.

The desperate need for outreach to this community cannot be disputed. Hispanic Americans leave over 10 million votes on the table nationally every election cycle, a fact that contributes to a loss of real political power from Washington, D.C. to Sacramento, to right here in San Jose. I earnestly support and have worked on robust programs like those being launched by Voto Latino, where the model is sustained, continued registration and mobilization—where the goal of moving the entire community forward is at heart.

However, when diving deeper into the local political calculus, there’s a clear winner from this effort in East San Jose: former Assemblyman and current candidate for State Senate District 15 Joe Coto. This might explain why the local party was convinced to take up the effort now, even though Hispanic representation has always lagged and there has always been the opportunity to reach out to this community. (As a disclaimer, this author has publicly endorsed Assemblyman Jim Beall.)

This past January, when the California Democratic Party held regional endorsement caucuses in Los Altos and then again in February at the State Democratic Party Convention in San Diego, you could practically predict who would vote for the party to endorse Beall and who wanted the party to endorse Coto—based on surname. I was one of the handful of Latinos to not vote for Coto, and I definitely felt pressured to vote for Coto in the process because of my ethnicity.

It was really something to behold, just how much of a factor race became in that endorsement process, which ultimately left neither Coto nor Beall with an official party endorsement. While I still believe the effort to register Hispanics is of critical importance, the main proponents of this program in local Democratic politics are overwhelmingly Coto supporters, who have engineered a true coup for that campaign: using local party resources and volunteers to register voters who will more likely than not vote for Coto over Beall.

A community can gain power with votes, but I sincerely hope that my analysis here is wrong, because organizing Hispanics for the purpose of getting a Hispanic elected is short-sided and small thinking. Real and lasting power is when a community can organize itself to the point where it joins a broader conversation, not dominated by race—where coalitions based on ideas and shared values matter more than the color of one’s skin.

The local Democratic Party should have a sustained effort that goes beyond organizing Latinos for November. The thinly veiled purpose of helping elect Joe Coto is a disservice to that community, which is frequently targeted only when needed. It’s time that Latinos in San Jose organize for the sake of having a full seat at the decision-making table.

Jonathan M. Padilla is a recent Harvard graduate, who has worked at the White House, in local, state, and national political campaigns, and in organizing the greater Hispanic community. He is currently working as a Teach for America corps member in the Bay Area.

12 Comments

  1. Amen, Jonathan. As a Latino voter, I vote who best represents my views and values. I do not automatically vote for those who share my skin color.

    As for the Party’s efforts to increase voter turnout among Latinos, I would be on board if it were not being spearheaded by local clubs who have already endorsed Coto!

    Wouldn’t it be something if the Party endorsed Beall, forcing the Coto supporters to have to campaign for their opponent?

  2. Wonderful article. I am sure that Joe Coto has served excellently in the Assembly, and I have no doubt he would make a fine State Seantor. However, I believe Jim Beall would make a much better one.

    Joe Coto and Jim Beall have similar histories in the State Assembly, but Coto’s campaign’s recent decision to rebrand Coto as a “small businessman” and a “moderate democrat” seem like too obvious of a political maneuver to capture the Republican vote who, thanks to our new top two primary law, lack a candidate.

    I think we need a State Senator who does not simply conform to whatever is politically expedient. Jim Beall has recently been speaking out against the growing crisis of California’s prison population. We’re wasting billions of dollars that could be spent on education to lock up nonviolent drug offenders; we need politicians like Jim who are willing to challenge special interests like the Prison corporations and fight for meaningful reform.

  3. Jonathan,

    Thank you for writing this column. Voting for someone based solely on their race is a complete slap in the face to our democracy, and to the more qualified candidates running for that office, and it enables reverse racism to be acceptable.

    Coto and his camp have already been courting the Latino vote, and have been telling Latinos to vote for Coto because he is Latino and Jim isn’t. In this most recent election, on Face Book, friends of Coto were accusing Beall of sending out a racist flier.

    The flier they were referring to was the one with an old Cadillac driven into the ground. (The true history of this symbol was meant to show government waste, and had nothing what so ever to do with racism!)

    Coto’s camp was claiming that the Cadillac was a low rider, and that the photo of Coto on it, made him look like a drunk Mexican! I couldn’t believe it. Even when many of us confronted them on their ignorant claims, asked them to refute the FACTS in the flier, which they didn’t do, they continued to maintain that Beall was racist They also had the nerve to state that we “white” people couldn’t understand their position because we haven’t suffered from this kind of discrimination. What a load of crap!

    It just goes to show you how reverse discrimination and pulling the race card has become acceptable to many in our society today, and how people vote based on emotion, and personal bias, rather than on the merits and accomplishments of the most qualified candidate.

    When confronted on their reverse discrimination, and asked to refute the facts in the flier, and when asked why it was okay for Coto’s camp to break the law by placing illegal campaign signs all over our district, they did exactly what I expected them to do, they pulled the race card.

    The really disgusting part of what they are doing by making these false claims of racism is that they are harming people who really ARE being discriminated against, and are keeping discrimination alive and well. They are also sending the wrong message to younger voters, and they are reinforcing generational bias. These kinds of destructive actions should not be allowed to go on unchallenged no matter what the circumstances.

    As I told them on Face Book, if they truly believe Jim was being inappropriate in his flier, they should have the professional courtesy to go to him and discuss it. They of course kept side stepping my request for them to do this, and began personally attacking me, and others who disagreed with them.

    They didn’t seem interested in doing the right thing, they just kept attacking Jim, and pulling the race card in the hopes of getting sympathy votes for their buddy Coto.

    I guess it is okay for Coto to call Jim a clown in the media, but it isn’t okay for Jim to disclose the TRUTH about Coto’s financial mismanagement of tax payer’s money to fund schools.

    • I am Latino and I will be casting my vote for Jim Beall because he is the best qualified person for the job.

      Mr Coto immediately made moves to the Republicans and now uses this sham of a voter drive for Latinos to better position himself for the election.  Its shameful how easily he is swayed from his principles.  He is part of that Hispanic brain-drain in San Jose who think they are deserved jobs as elected officials simply because they want them.  Career politicians who jump from one nasty smear campaign to another.  Latino voters should pay attention who truly advocates for citizens in San Jose. 

      It’s not about color and race its about integrity and Coto (along with Shirakawa, Campos, Diaz, Chavez, Gonzalez, Martinez-Roach, Garcia) all lack integrity.

  4. blah blah blah, blah!
      GET OFF THAT SOAP BOX KATHLEEN!

      THE EASTSIDE DUKES, HAVE A WAR MACHINE WORKING!
      THEY GOT MANNY DIAZ TO THE PLACE HE REACHED, UNTIL
      SAM FINALY TOOK HIM OUT.
      THE MHC, MACSA, THE REP. THIS GUY WAS THERE!
      A MILLION STORIES YET UNTOLD.
      THE VILLAGE BLACK SMITH

    • The Village Black Smith,

      Don’t shoot the messenger.  What I said is exactly what I stand by. Any candidate who feels the need to pressure voters into voting for them based solely on race, and not on their qualifications is a very frightening candidate indeed.

    • P.S.

      THE VILLAGE BLACK SMITH

      Manny Diaz lost to Smilin Sam not because he was Latino but because his constituents didn’t want him representing them anymore based on his past performance in office. A very good reason to vote for someone other than Diaz in my opinion.

  5. Kathleen, your comment above needs some comment.

    First of all, social mores have changed from pluralism (100 years ago) to multiculturalism (50 years ago) and then to politicized multiracialism (a decade ago).  Like it or not, the Coto camp is perfectly in tune with the social changes promoted in San Jose, in Santa Clara County, and throughout California by media, entertainment, and politicians.  Demographics is politics now.

    Second, when you refer to reverse racism, you are clearly enunciating a disordered category of discourse.  Surely you know that racism is racism?  We get the message that you want to be sure to slap the minority white community in San Jose with racism as a predicate to discussing racism by others, but every demographic has its own racism.  There are not two kinds of racism or discrimination.

    Third, putting quotation marks around “white” is strange.  We are the diverse white American peoples living in San Jose, after all. White is a perfectly legitimate adjective as you used it. No need for quotation marks.

  6. Minority White Community,
    “First of all, social mores have changed from pluralism (100 years ago) to multiculturalism (50 years ago) and then to politicized multiracialism (a decade ago).  Like it or not, the Coto camp is perfectly in tune with the social changes promoted in San Jose, in Santa Clara County, and throughout California by media, entertainment, and politicians.  Demographics is politics now.”

    May be in your world and in others but not in mine. I couldn’t care less what the media and special interest groups believe is correct or incorrect regarding social mores. I chose to live my life by viewing people as individuals and not as a group. Having said that, I have and always will research candidates and vote for them based on their qualifications, regardless of their race.

    “Second, when you refer to reverse racism, you are clearly enunciating a disordered category of discourse.  Surely you know that racism is racism?  We get the message that you want to be sure to slap the minority white community in San Jose with racism as a predicate to discussing racism by others, but every demographic has its own racism.  There are not two kinds of racism or discrimination.”

    I never knew democracy had a race! LOL! Reverse discrimination is just as applicable here as straight out racism is, it is just a matter of semantics. 

    “Third, putting quotation marks around “white” is strange.  We are the diverse white American peoples living in San Jose, after all. White is a perfectly legitimate adjective as you used it. No need for quotation marks.”

    You’d be incorrect about that. I put quotation marks around the world white, because I was quoting
    the comment made to me by others. Another words, that description was not mine, but that of another.

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