Meg Whitman's Latino Problem

7 years ago
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman addresses an issue while her opponent, Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, listens during the second of their three planned televised debates in Fresno California on October 2, 2010.  UPI/Eric Paul Zamora/pool Photo via Newscom

California candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, has been in the hot seat since last week when her former housekeeper, Nicky Santillan, made allegations that she was mistreated, and oh by the way, the housekeeper was here working for them illegally. Next thing you know, Whitman's on stage in a Spanish language debate, being asked about immigration and the DREAM Act. That's when it got really ugly.

Whitman responded to a woman who finished at the top of her high school class but is not fully documented (by no fault of her own, since her parents brought her here as a child) by essentially suggesting she had no place in the California educational system. The woman, who wished her identity to be anonymous due to her legal status, attends college and wants to participate legally in the U.S. economy. She fired back yesterday with a statement through the California Young Democrats, saying:

"My education is the only thing I really have in this country, besides my friends and family, and I don't understand why she would belittle my hard work and that of all other students in my situation. If Ms. Whitman cannot support young successful immigrants, how can she claim she will serve the Latino community?"

Absentee ballots are in the mail and the Hispanic vote could determine who wins. Immigration keeps climbing the list of top issues in California and nationally, not far behind budget and economic woes. Whitman, who has held the conservative line on most issues throughout the election to date, can't be feeling too comfortable with all of the pressure on her relating back to this particular topic. While at least one ultra-conservative group is calling for Whitman to be arrested for hiring an illegal worker, her website touts her being "tough as nails" on immigration and her campaign continues to stay on message.

Many on the left have attacked Whitman, calling her a flip-flopper, a hypocrite and cruel. Karoli provided a detailed account of the debate exchange, emphasizing:

"California taxpayers have made an investment in this student's education for the past 12 years, and the investment has proven itself worthy. This is the kind of student every teacher wants -- one who works hard, is about to graduate with a triple major, and has much to give back to taxpayers who made that investment."

On the right, Whitman has been cast as a victim of the housekeeper and her attorney, Gloria Allred, and Whitman is being showcased as a champion for smart fiscal policy. And there is a practical argument to be made, as explained by the Optimistic Conservative:

"Californians are a lot more worried about illegals who commit homicides and flee to Mexico than they are about Meg Whitman and her maid."

Valid point.

Most people aren't going after Jerry Brown in this case. Allred has become the bad cop. Mary at Freedom Eden pointed to The San Francisco Chronicle account of that situation, leaning on an immigration lawyer's point that,  "Whitman did not act unlawfully by keeping the housekeeper employed" because "had she gone ahead and fired Nicandra Diaz Santillan based on such a letter, she would have exposed herself to potential anti-discrimination violations."

While the dust settles on that piece of the puzzle, the damage has been done to the Whitman campaign and a weakness exposed. There's little likelihood she'll have enough trust within the Latino community to secure their votes, but "Disillusioned Hispanics May Skip Midterms" according to The New York Times interpretation of a poll just released. Only 51% of Latino voters plan to vote. California Democrats and the Democratic Governors Association think this may be a turning point in the race, toward a win by Brown.

The bottom line, as in all Midterm races, is who votes, as the Latino Politics Blog emphasized last week. "If the Democrats show up to vote in California, Jerry Brown will win."

...

Sarah Granger blogs here and there. She is curating BlogHer's Election 2010 content, featuring women candidates and bloggers.

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