After the 2012 Presidential Election, Latinos have established a reputation as a powerful group of voters.
We turned to Emanuel Pleitez, a Stanford graduate who is currently campaigning for a spot in the Los Angeles Mayoral Race, to learn more about the mind of the Latino voter, the role of the media, and more.
[The following has been edited for length.]
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: You've been labeled as the "underdog" in the Los Angeles Mayoral race. Is that how you describe yourself?
Emanuel Pleitez: "I would say that I definitely came in the race as an underdog. However, the field is leveling out. In politics it's all about momentum, and we definitely have it."
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: One of your competitors, Eric Garcetti, has stated with some controversy that he is a Latino candidate. How do you define "Latino"?
Emanuel Pleitez: "Latinos come from all different backgrounds. We have a connection in terms of a Spanish native tongue. "Latino" is becoming more about how you identify.
Eric Garcetti is Latino. I have no authority in saying he is not. I'm happy he identifies, and he should identify, because we need more Latino leaders."
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: Do Latino voters cast ballots based on identity (for example, a candidate's background or last name) or do they vote based on issues?
Emanuel Pleitez: "It's a combination. It shouldn't be just about ethnicity or race. We need leaders, especially in the Latino community. Most people understand that. They vote for leaders.
"I dislike when folks talk about "is it issues or is it ethnicity". It's more complicated than that. It's about leadership."
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: You have stated that the Latino vote is "not for sale." How have politicians tried to "buy" the Latino vote?
Emanuel Pleitez: "The elected officials who have raised the most money have not been walking in the most underrepresented neighborhoods in the city. You can't buy a bunch of commercials and think you will get the Latino vote. I have a grassroots campaign of organizers. We may not have as much money but we put in the work.
That's what we need. More Latinos, especially Latinas, to step up and say 'I'm going to lead.' That trumps money."
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: You've seen a recent spike in Latino support (SurveyUSA recently released a poll that indicates 13% of Latino voters are supporting Emanuel Pleitez, about equal with some competitors). How are you connecting with Latino voters?
Emanuel Pleitez: "I just started getting mentioned in the polls and newspapers, so the support I've gotten has been from organizers knocking on doors. Now that the media is coming, that number [13%] will go even higher. People will read about me, they will see me on Telemundo. There are only 24 days left, but this might be right on time.
It's time and it's money. We can't get away from [the financial] aspect. But the energy is important."
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: You haven't been mentioned much in the news. How are you reacting to the recent media coverage?
Emanuel Pleitez: "I think of it more as part of the process of a candidate coming out. I wish more of our young stars in the Latino community would be willing to do this so that their stories can come out.
For the amount of people we have and the struggles we face, our stories aren't told enough. It's sad that it took me running for mayor to get my story out."
Dulce-Marie Flecha/The Wise Latina Club: You graduated from Stanford University. Can you share lessons you learned as an undergraduate that carried into your professional career?
Emanuel Pleitez: "You know what, you'd be surprised. Thing's don't change much. If you can excel in your university, you will excel for the rest of your life.
"I'm not going to sit here and say that it's easy, but it's possible. For people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, sometimes their blossoming comes a little later. But it comes.
"Don't worry so much. Continue working hard, don't run out of steam, and stay with integrity on your own path. You're going to be fine."
The Wise Latina Club’s Dulce-Marie Flecha is a rising senior at Penn State. When she is not writing her honors thesis, she is trying to learn a fourth language, feeding her fashion obsession by Googling her favorite designers’, or begging the Yankees to hit with runners in scoring position. Click here to read more about and connect with Dulce-Marie.
What do you think is the most important influence on Latino voters?