Despite election losses for years, Hispanic leaders say the continued growth of their community will eventually lead to more Hispanics in the Oklahoma Legislature.
Republican and Democratic officials are anticipating the changes, trying to recruit more candidates and voters.
State Rep. Mike Sanders, a Republican from Kingfisher, said he has ramped up his efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community in north central Oklahoma and to encourage them to engage politically.
Sanders is in charge of the House Republican political action committee and the House GOP’s candidate recruitment efforts. Oklahoma’s Hispanic community, he said, is an untapped resource.
“There have been some outreach efforts,” Sanders said. “But we could do a lot more. The Hispanic community is still growing and expanding and, like everyone else, they have concerns. But I think there’s some fear involved and I think there’s some hesitancy get involved in politics.”
Oklahoma Hispanics are still establishing themselves but they are responsive when approached, Sanders said.
“At first it was difficult,” he said. “In fact, it was like pulling teeth … But I’ve contacted many members of the Hispanic community and asked them to participate and they’ve responded.”
Democrat strategists are running a similar game plan. State Democratic Party chairman Wallace Collins said Democrats have spent the past year reaching out to the Hispanic community in an effort to register voters, get residents involved and recruit candidates.
“There is still a lot of work to do, but this year we had several Hispanic candidates seek office and we hope to expand that in the future,” Collins said.
Carlos Ortiz, the chief editor of El Nacional, a Spanish-language newspaper in Oklahoma City, said efforts are being made to encourage residents to vote. Ortiz said Hispanic residents, who are still learning their way around an election ballot, have developed a unique way to address the issue.
Instead of going to the polls, Ortiz said, many voters request absentee ballots, then get together and discuss the issues.
“People help each other. With absentee ballots they have more time to vote,” he said.
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