Covid-19 recovery efforts will be a primary issue for New York City's growing bloc of Latino voters ahead of its Democratic primary and general election in which the city will choose a new mayor, according to political experts.
New York City's Democratic primary is scheduled for June 22, with the winner widely considered likely to win the November 2 general election in the Democrat-leaning city.
The primary takes place amid a rapidly growing Latino electorate. While Latino voters made up approximately 18% of the electorate in the city's last mayoral primary in 2018, experts believe that they might make up more than 20% in 2021.
In an interview with LPO, Eli Valentin, a New York City-based professor, political analyst and consultant, said that the last time such significant numbers of Latinos were expected to vote in the city was the 2005 Mayoral election, in which Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer was the Democratic Party's nominee. He eventually lost the election to incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Obviously, what drove the turnout [in 2005] was the fact that we had a Latino at the top of the ballot," he said.
"This time, there is really no top tier Latino candidate on the ballot, and we have no Latino candidates for comptroller. With that in mind, with over 20% possibly coming out, I think for a municipal election this would be the highest ever turnout among Latinos."
Of the 15 mayoral candidates on this year's ballot, two are Latinos: left-wing candidate Dianne Morales, who identifies as Afro-Latina, and Dominican-born Republican candidate Fernando Mateo.
Neither of the two front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination - former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams - are Latino, polls have shown that Adams is ahead with Latino voters.
In late May, Adams also picked up a vital endorsement from Dominican-born congressman Adriano Espaillat, widely considered one of the most influential Latino politicians in the city.
Valentin, however, warned that some polls indicate that as many as 40% of Latinos in the city remain undecided.
"That sounds pretty accurate. Latinos tend to decide later in elections. More recent polls show Eric Adams receiving more of the Latino vote than other candidates," he explained. "But I don't know if that means he'll win the lion's share."
"At this point, I don't think any single candidate can claim ownership of the Latino vote in this election," Valentin added. "I think that'll be interesting, because I believe it will make the Latino vote that much more significant."
The Latino vote, Valentin added, is increasingly diverse, with a wide range of issues of importance to them.
"The Latino vote has grown in number, and has also grown in diversity," he said. "It was heavily Puerto Rican, but now that's changed. Now we have some South Americans, like Ecuadorians and Colombians, and Mexicans as well, that are part of that electorate. I think that been the biggest change over the last decade."
The priority for many of these voters, local politicians and experts have noted, is primarily economic, particularly when it comes to jobs.
"We know that Latinos, more than many other groups, were directly impacted in a very negative way," New York Democratic congresswoman Nydia VelĂˇzquez was quoted as saying recently by the New York Times. "So people want to know, what are you going to do to address those inequities that were exposed during Covid-19?"
In his remarks, Valentin said that pandemic recovery will be "very important" as a priority for mayoral candidates ahead of the election.
"They've been really hit hard, in so many ways. Even when it comes to contracting the virus, because many of them were essential workers. They had to work," he added. "The job losses have also impacted Latinos in great numbers."
"It seems that that's one of the key issues that is going to influence how Latinos will vote in the mayoral election," he added. "That's absolutely a priority."
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