* Martin Torres with the Latino Policy Forum has some advice for Illinois gubernatorial candidates…
1) Diversify your campaign’s brain trust
You can’t build bridges without any infrastructure. Hiring part-time consultants and recruiting well-known campaign surrogates can be an effective strategy, but don’t stop there. Hire Latino campaign staff to fill visible, prominent positions within your campaign and establish a Latino advisory committee. Incorporating diverse talent within your campaign’s brain trust will send a signal to everyone that your campaign takes this segment of the electorate seriously.
More importantly, Latino staff and advisors can provide valuable perspectives on how to address specific Latino audiences, offer feedback on how policy statements will be received by the Latino community, and connect you with people you will go on to forge relationships with throughout the election. They can also be used to make sure that your web content, print materials, and Spanish-language radio and TV ads strike the right chord with Latino voters. At the very least, diversifying your campaign’s inner circle will indicate to voters and civic leaders that your administration will be inclusive if your candidate prevails in 2014.
2) Be specific as to how your administration will address issues of concern to Latino residents
Latino voters want to know how they fit into your vision of a better, stronger, more prosperous Illinois. Successful candidates will apply a Latino perspective to the overarching issues all voters care about. So when your campaign is talking about economic development, please explain how Latino business owners will benefit from your proposals. When your campaign talks education, please discuss how your reform agenda will help meet the needs of Illinois’ largest growing student population. And when it articulates how to get Illinois out of debt, please outline how your package of tax changes, spending choices, and government reforms are going to affect Latino children, families, and workers. Your campaign doesn’t have to carve out a Latino-centric explanation for everything, but it’s reasonable to expect some specific, data-driven responses from candidates who want to earn the trust of Latino voters.
3) Make plans to visit Latino voters outside of Cook County
This sounds obvious, but your campaign might feel pretty good about its standing with the Latino electorate after successful pit stops in Little Village, Humboldt Park, and Cicero. Don’t be fooled: Roughly 40 percent of Latino residents live outside of Cook County. In fact, during the last decade, the Latino population grew by more than 60,000 in both Kane and Will Counties and by nearly 50,000 in Lake County. Before your campaign stops in these areas, do your homework. Find out when Latino residents started settling in large cities like Elgin and smaller villages like Carpentersville. That will help your campaign better understand the historic dynamics of the population, shed light on what’s fueled population growth over time, and give you some insight into what’s needed from a public policy perspective to contribute to the well-being of Latino families as you move forward.
Your thoughts on this list? Also, do you have any other advice?