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Eva Longoria

The Latino Victory Project

I like the sound of this.

Building on record-breaking fundraising numbers, an expanded donor base and a historically high number of Latino voters in the 2012 presidential election, a progressive Latino group is set to officially begin efforts to expand the reach of Latino voters and candidates in the 2014 cycle and beyond.

Founded by actress and advocate Eva Longoria and Henry R. Munoz III, a businessman and finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the Latino Victory Project includes the Latino Victory PAC, a political arm that will back a slate of candidates who embody “a pro-Latino agenda and values” on issues such as immigration reform, the environment, the economy and health care.

“We want to build political power within the Latino community and institutionalize what happened in 2012. There needs to be a movement right now,” Longoria said. “We can really exercise the potential, because people see the demographic shift and are now saying, ‘Hi, Mr. Garcia. Hi, Mrs. Lopez.’ We want to make sure the names on the ballot reflect that power.”

To that end, the PAC will back a slate of seven Latino candidates — Reps. Joe Garcia (Fla.), Pete Gallegos (Tex.) and Raul Ruiz (Calif.); Amanda Renteria, who is running for Congress in California; and Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who is running for lieutenant governor; Texas state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, who also is running for lieutenant governor; and Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I., who is running for governor.

Charlie Crist, who is running for his old job as governor of Latino-heavy Florida, also will receive the group’s support.

Although 11 million Latinos cast ballots in the 2012 election, about 12 million stayed away, and Latinos still vote at a lower rate than any other group. That same year, Latino elected officials did make gains nationwide, in state legislatures and in Congress, with a record 31 now serving in Congress, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Yet their representation in Congress is below 17 percent, the make-up of Latinos in the general population.

“The disparity is so stark and that’s why we have to begin developing the pipeline now, not only for 2014 but laying groundwork that will take us to 2016 and then to 2020,” said Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project. “That is the year for us when Latinos will be in a position to influence the Oval Office. Our vision for 2020 is that we will have a record number of Latino voters to help influence redistricting and to help drive and influence policy for the balance of the century. This will take some time.”

[…]

The group grew out of the Futuro Fund, which raised $30 million for Obama’s reelection and created a new cadre of high- and low-dollar donors, with 150,000 Latinos contributing.

Among the specific initiatives is a program called “The Firsts,” which will focus on Latinos who are the first in their families and communities to reach educational and professional milestones, a designation that often falls to the eldest daughter, who Alex said is often the “CEO in the family.”

“By 2016, we want 100,000 of the firsts,” Alex said. “And they will elevate the first Lucy Flores, the first Leticia Van De Putte.”

Indeed, sparking the kind of movement Longoria envisions means engaging Latinas.

“Women definitely make the household decisions, economic decisions, educational decisions, and in turn, that correlates with the political decisions,” she said.

See here for their website, and here for a bit of background. It sounds like they’ve got a Battleground Texas-like model, which is all about engaging neighbors and friends to spread the word. I’m delighted to see that they’ll be supporting Sen. Van de Putte and Rep. Gallego, both of whom could use all the involvement they can get. They’re right that this will take time, so who knows how much effect it may have this year, but there’s no time like the present to get started. Stace has more.

One more thing:

Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, remains the biggest political prize for Democrats, yet the Lone Star state has remained solidly red. The state’s brightest stars are Latinos, among them Sen. Ted Cruz; George P. Bush, who is running for Texas land commissioner; and twin brothers Joaquin Castro, a congressman, and Julian, who is mayor of San Antonio.

In Texas, Democrats don’t have a solid lock on Latinos; 40 percent backed Gov. Rick Perry in 2010.

groan Where do these not-based-in-Texas writers come up with these numbers. No citation is given, so one presumes it’s little more than someone’s idea of conventional wisdom. As I’ve said many times before, this sort of thing can be easily checked with actual election data. Here’s how Rick Perry did in the most heavily Latino State Rep districts in 2010.

Dist SSVR% Perry White Perry% White% ============================================ 31 75.77 10,135 13,454 42.01% 55.77% 35 73.67 6,465 10,663 37.19% 61.34% 36 82.58 4,035 9,459 29.55% 69.26% 37 77.19 6,245 10,273 36.96% 60.79% 38 77.01 6,420 9,144 39.11% 59.26% 39 81.43 5,278 13,987 27.03% 71.64% 40 85.44 3,086 8,898 25.37% 73.16% 42 85.76 4,992 16,985 22.41% 76.24% 75 80.97 3,042 7,260 29.04% 69.31% 76 80.69 4,033 12,758 23.57% 74.57% 80 78.50 7,320 13,486 34.58% 63.70% Total 61,051 126,367 32.57% 67.43%

Election and SSVR data can be found here. As with the claims that Mitt Romney took 36% of the Latino vote in Texas and Ted Cruz took 40%, the empirical evidence does not bear this unsupported, context-free claim out. As always, this sort of analysis is limited and somewhat hazy, as the actual percentage of Latino voters in these districts in any given election may be considerably less than the Spanish Surname Registered Voter (SSRV) percentage. Given that most of the non-Latino voters in these districts will be Anglo, whose support for Rick Perry or whichever other Republican we’re looking at is likely to be a lot higher than these numbers, that suggests Perry’s actual level of Latino support in these districts is lower that what you see here. This represents less than twenty percent of the total statewide Latino vote, but to get from here to 40% overall would mean that Latinos everywhere else voted for Perry at much higher rates than what we’re seeing in these districts. I’ve yet to see any credible evidence suggesting that might indeed be the case. Anyway, the bottom line is that the evidence we have implies Rick Perry’s actual level of support among Latinos is a fairly unremarkable 30% or so. I’ve shown you my numbers, so if you want to claim otherwise, you show me yours.

Eva Longoria

She’s much more than an actor.

At a panel discussion on achieving economic and social mobility at the Clinton Global Initiative

Over the past five years of the Obama presidency, the 38-year-old Corpus Christi native who rocketed to fame in Hollywood has slowly but surely made her mark in Washington as a serious student of issues, a formidable fundraiser for Democratic causes and a spokeswoman for the emerging, increasingly empowered young generation of Latinos.

Longoria has become such an ascendant star in Democratic circles that the party’s national finance chairman, Henry Muñoz of San Antonio, says donors are sometimes disappointed when he shows up alone.

“I get that everywhere I go these days: Why isn’t Eva Longoria here?” jokes Muñoz, CEO of the architecture firm Muñoz & Co.

The answer is simple: There’s only so much politicking the actress can do while pursuing her day job in Hollywood and running her charitable foundations.

In addition to Eva’s Heroes, a charity that aids developmentally disabled children, she launched the Eva Longoria Foundation last year to promote college access and support business startups among young Latinas. The foundation’s first big move, announced in April, involves doling out $2 million in microloans to Latina business owners in Texas and California, stemming from a partnership with Warren Buffett’s son, Howard. Her efforts landed Longoria a seat alongside former President Bill Clinton to talk economic empowerment at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting Thursday in Chicago.

In Washington, she has appeared on Capitol Hill at hearings and news conferences, shining a spotlight on child-labor abuses in agriculture, the struggles of the learning impaired, the need for better schools to boost young Latinos out of poverty, the dearth of Small Business Administration programs for Latino entrepreneurs, and, of course, immigration reform.

Beyond the world of legislation, she’s put her clout behind efforts in the nation’s capital to create an American Latino museum on the National Mall, a Latino heritage fund for the National Parks and management training for Latino arts groups.

In her spare time, she received a master’s degree in American Hispanic history from California State University, Northridge, last month with a focus on math and science coursework for Latina students. She earned her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

She’s compiled quite an impressive resume, and is attracting plenty of notice for her political activities as well. Longoria was co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign and his inauguration. Those aren’t things you get to do just by being a pretty face. This being Texas, and Longoria being a star Democrat in a state that could use all the Democratic star power it can get, speculation is inevitable.

Some wistful Democrats see Longoria as a 21st century Ronald Reagan – a dynamic communicator with the potential to alter the partisan landscape in Texas and appeal across economic and social lines nationwide.

“It would appear that for many Texas Democrats, Longoria has now replaced Tommy Lee Jones as their fantasy celebrity candidate for public office,” said Mark P. Jones, chairman of the political science department at Rice University.

Jones warned, however, that fantasies about Longoria the politician may never be fulfilled.

“While many celebrities are effective at advancing specific causes, a much smaller number have been able to move to the next level and become effective actors within the political system,” he said.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard anyone mention Longoria as a potential candidate for anything, wistfully or otherwise. As I recall, the ultimately short-lived Ashley Judd for Senate boomlet got started when Judd was shown to be a potentially competitive candidate in a race against Sen. Mitch McConnell. The lesson I would draw from that, if I were interested in initiating a similar phenomenon here, would be to convince a respectable pollster to do some hypothetical matchups for Sen. John Cornyn, with Eva Longoria of course being one of the hypothetical opponents, and see what happens. You never know, right?

On a side note, this article was written before the Wendy Davis filibuster and its fallout. Out of curiosity, I checked to see if Longoria commented on that on either her Twitter or Facebook accounts; as far as I can tell, the answer is No. No one is required to say anything about anything, it was just one of those things that occur to me now and again, so make of that what you will.

Activists for the disabled protest in front of Perry’s office

Go for it!

About 35 Texans in wheelchairs, denouncing proposed state budget cuts, staged a sit-in outside Gov. Rick Perry’s Capitol office late Tuesday.

Protesters with the disability rights group Adapt of Texas vowed to stay until they were removed or arrested.

Chief organizers Bob Kafka and David Wittie said the group also would disperse if Perry agreed in writing to its demand that Texas use all its rainy-day money and raise other revenue to avoid cuts to community-based long-term-care services. The Republican governor has urged lawmakers not to use any rainy-day money and opposes tax increases.

Some of them wound up getting ticketed, though it’s not clear what for. Perry naturally snuck out the back like the coward he is, leaving his spokesperson to complain about how you’re not supposed to use “disruptive” tactics to get a meeting with him. Oh, and now they’ve erected a barricade to keep those pesky wheelchair warriors out. Way to hide, Governor!

For their part, the protesters said they’d been trying to speak with the Governor since August. Don’t they understand that if they don’t have a large campaign contribution to being him they’re wasting everybody’s time? I mean, clearly the Governor has more important things to do than speak to ordinary people.

Earlier in the day, these folks were joined by some high profile supporters.

TV star and native Texan Eva Longoria stopped by the Capitol today to stand with a couple hundred advocates for continued funding of state programs for people with developmental disabilities.

Longoria said her 43-year-old sister is a special needs resident of a group home in Texas, which could close due to funding cuts in the state budget proposals under consideration.

“We’re not here to ask for more money,” she said “We want to keep what we have fought for for the last 30 years.”

The shuttering of group homes is just one potential consequence of Senate and House budget proposals that make millions of dollars in cuts to programs that serve the state’s developmentally disabled population. According to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, at least 23 programs across five different state departments will see budget reductions that will affect those with special needs.

Longoria was joined in the shade of the Capitol’s north steps by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

“You have to translate these budget numbers to real human lives,” he instructed the crowd, who visited with legislators following the rally.

The Express News has more extensive coverage of this.

Longoria, whose intellectually disabled sister, Liza, joined her on the stage in the parking lot of the special needs-focused park, wore the same red T-shirt as those in the audience, emblazoned with the words: My Future Is In Your Hands.

After the rally, she boarded one of four buses that squired the throng to Austin, where they were to spend an afternoon rallying on the Capitol steps and meeting with legislators to emphasize their opposition to the cuts.

[…]

Alice McIntire, 48, who lives in residential center for those with mental retardation, knew exactly what she planned to tell lawmakers in Austin.

“You’re trying to take my home away from me,” she said. “If you do that I’ll be crying, I’ll be hurt. I don’t want to leave my home.”

Cynthia Benjamin came to the rally with her son Charles, 22, who clutched a plastic dinosaur.

“I can’t tell you how important support agencies are to parents,” she said. “Here’s a perfect example: The other day my son had to be sedated to see the dentist and I couldn’t carry him afterwards. What would I do without help?”

Ana Aponte said she would have to institutionalize her son Luis, who is 33 and has severe autism, if it weren’t for funding that provides services that allows her to keep him at home.

“We want him to be surrounded by his family,” she said.

Tina Chang wonders how she will be able to afford doctor visits and medicine for her two profoundly autistic foster daughters, Linda and Esmeralda, if proposed Medicaid cuts go through.

“If we can’t get services, it hurts our purpose that was given to us by God,” she said.

Someone should mention that to Sen. Patrick. I recommend bringing a sonogram with you when you visit him. To be slightly more serious, the point here is that the overall burden on the state for helping these people is quite small in the context of the budget, but the burden on the families in the absence of the state would be crushing. And the cost to the state and to local governments when families fall apart as a result of that burden will likely be greater than the cost of helping them deal with it in the first place would have been. Oh, and finding savings that don’t hurt people is easier said than done.

Anyway. You can see video from the rally here, here, and here. I wish all these folks the very best of luck in getting their voices heard.