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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Gente de Minnesota Endorses Keith Ellison for Congress

Ember Reichgott Junge failed to answer their questionaire.


For the second year in a row Gente de Minnesota has decided to endorse candidates for political office in the primary election. This year we will add this endorsement to La Prensa de Minnesota which became part of the LCN Media family in January of this year. It?s more important than ever for Latinos to vote and become politically active. In the past year we have had Republicans in congress proposing some of the most anti-immigrant legislation this country has seen in a long time. Then we had Governor Tim Pawlenty and Republicans in the state House of Representatives making anti-immigrant proposals that were supported by most Democrats in the suburbs. Never mind that immigration policy is a federal issue and not a state issue.

Our community is under attack and we need to respond now. We?ve already seen what just legislative proposals can do to our community. We?ve had many members in our community deported in the last six months. The uncertainty on immigration legislation that Republicans in congress have left us with, have greatly reduced economic activity in the Latino community and will not pick up until congress passes comprehensive immigration reform. This has greatly affected home buying, car buying and has affected the general Minnesota economy. Latinos and immigrants now perceive Minnesota as unfriendly to them because of proposals by Governor Pawlenty. If these proposals have already done so much damage just imagine what would happen if their legislative proposals actually were approved.

Our community responded to these anti immigrant proposals by marching and uniting like never before. Over two million people marched in April and May of this year around the US and over 40,000 in St Paul, Minnesota. We had as many marchers as in Phoenix Arizona which has a population almost seven times as big as Minnesota?s. Marchers were overwhelmingly Latino.

But now what? Republicans in congress continue to delay immigration reform, even after the US Senate with a Republican majority passed legislation with the support of George Bush. Over 50% of Latino kids don?t graduate from high School. Latinos are the largest group of people in this country without health insurance. Many of our young people are dying in Iraq without a clear strategy to win the war or end it. And we are more scared than ever about the possibility of more terrorist attacks in the United States.

What we can do is VOTE. Over 60% of Latinos in Minnesota are US Citizens. Unfortunately we have a history of less than 50% of eligible Latino voters actually voting. The time is NOW to change this.

We will be reminding our readers in the next few weeks to vote in the September 12th primary and in the November general election. We will also be reminding our radio station listeners through La Invasora 1400 AM to vote. We will be reminding them also who our endorsed candidates are. And we will be reminding our readers where to find out where to vote, and if they are not registered to vote, what the rules are for same day registration. There is one thing we can thank Governor Tim Pawlenty and Republicans in congress this year: They have united our community like never before, and increased our political activism. Here are our endorsed candidates for the September 12th primaries. We will be making more endorsements before the general election in November.

First, our endorsement for congress in the 5th congressional district. This is a very important primary election. There are four strong candidates for this seat in the DFL primary. Three chose to answer our questionnaire and we will assume Ember Reichgott Junge never got around it or had some sort of miscommunication.

Our endorsed candidate is Keith Ellison. The main reason we endorsed Ellison is because he has been there for the Latino community over and over again. He was there marching with us in April and against the Minutemen when they came into town. He was with us by actively supporting the passage of the DREAM Act here in Minnesota. He was one of only 25 Representatives to oppose HF0001 that required immigration status be shown on drivers' licenses. In the most recent session he opposed Rep. Knoblach's bill to preempt the right of Minnesota municipalities to enact separation ordinances that prevent local law enforcement from becoming involved outside their jurisdiction, specifically acting as immigration agents.

He spoke out against Governor Pawlenty's statements attributing increased crime rates to immigration. We endorse him because he has been with us and he will continue to be with us. He lobbied very hard for our endorsement and showed the most interest in it. His answers to our questions took eight pages. His answers weren't perfect.

Some in our editorial committee had problems with what we perceived as answers that opposed increased commercial trade with Latin America. Many Latino small business owners in the US and Latin America would benefit with increased trade. We agree with some of his concerns and the concerns of the other candidates about labor and environmental consequences to some of the free trade agreements in the past with Mexico, Chile and Central America. But the future prosperity in Latin America is tied to more future trade between the United States and Latin America. There can be disagreements between friends. We were very encouraged by his pledge to do everything possible to unite the Latino Caucus and the African American Caucus more than ever, if elected to congress.

We had some concerns about mainstream media reports on Ellison's past. We asked him about his reported previous affiliation with Louis Farrakhan, political statements he made as a young man, and his past problems in paying fines and reporting his campaign expenses. But we believe he is working hard to address his organizational problems and he has rejected the teachings of Farrakhan now that he understands them better. There isn't a biased bone in the Keith Ellison we met and we feel very comfortable that the problems addressed by the main stream media have been blown out of proportion.

Mike Erlandson also impressed us quite a bit. It was actually a fairly close decision on the endorsement. He had a very good understanding of issues affecting the Latino community. He scored very closely to Keith Ellison in answering our questions. He would also have the advantage of having worked in congress for many years as congressman Martin Sabo's chief of Staff. He would represent us well if elected. He is also the only candidate other than Ellison to reach out to our newspapers. But unfortunately we hadn't seen him before working on our issues.

Paul Ostrow made the extra effort of answering our questions in English and Spanish. We also believe he had a good understanding of Latino issues and would represent us well in congress. Ellison and Erlandson though had a better understanding of our issues and took more time answering our questions.

There are two other candidates with primary opponents that deserve our support. For the first time in Minnesota's History we have a Latina candidate for the Minnesota Senate. We also have the chance of adding another Latino to the House of Representatives to join our friend Carlos Mariani.

Patricia Torres Ray won the endorsement of the DFL party to represent Senate District 62 in South Minneapolis in the Longfellow and Nokomis neighborhoods and Willie Dominguez won the DFL endorsement in Keith Ellison?s House district seat in 58 B in North Minneapolis. They are both facing opponents in their DFL primaries. Both are excellent candidates that have done a lot to help our community and they deserve our support. They would be the first Latino legislators to ever serve from Minneapolis. It?s about time.