By Vivian Weinstein
San Antonio -- Linda Bocanegra, owner of the Arizona Café, invited people from the Southwest side for a free lunch for Democratic supporters and candidates. Over 500 local people came for lunch along with reporters and TV stations from faraway Houston and other towns in Texas. This is the hot spot prior to yearly elections. Bocanegra’s guests overflowed from her large café to tables on the sidewalk. There was even a band in the street.
Democratic Governor candidate Bill White and many state legislators were invited. The audience was mainly from the Southwest side and Hispanic. Bocanegra and her friends served up huge bowls of steaming bean soup, flour tacos, melted cheese and chips and ice tea. She loves doing this every election period.
Everyone ate big time.
Participants cheered when the advice went out loudly over the mike, "Vote the whole ticket!" State Sen. Letitia Van De Putte joined Bill White in speaking. Even the State Board of Education candidate, Dr. Soto, was introduced, along with many judges and state legislature candidates. The warm setting allowed for the candidates to mingle and talk to people as they ate and listened.
Bill White spoke to urgent issues facing Latinos, unemployed, seniors, and poor working class parents with young children. He stressed education, noting that incumbent Republican Perry vetoed a bill for pre school education and is now cutting funds for college tuition and even child vaccines. All this will severely affect not only this community but anyone who is poor or working class.
Perry would like to balance the expected $18 billion shortfall in the Texas budget by means of cutting money from the poor, health care and education. These cuts will deeply affect people of this community and the chance that their children will be able to get a college education or be prepared to get into college. White stated that Texas currently has the most minimum wage jobs, but young people need to be prepared for higher skilled and better paying jobs for the future of Texas. He stressed his opposition to teaching to the multiple choice tests. He stressed teaching critical thinking and keeping kids in school.
Bill White calls attention to the school dropout rate, about the worst in the country. Bill White is a very strong advocate of improving education from pre-school to college.
Both Van de Putte and Bill White expressed opposition to any plan to introduce an anti-immigrant Arizona copycat law in the next legislative session in January. Bill White said he would veto any bill of that type if the legislature sent it to him as Governor. Sen. Van De Putte was very outspoken in her protests of rightwing plans.
The fact that the State Board of Education has been trying to delete Latino and Mexican history (or rather all indigenous history) was mentioned and people were acutely aware of these issues.
So why do some of the pundits say that there a problem getting out the voters in the Latino community? Two ideas were mentioned by the folks eating at my table, One was poor registration. and the second was fear of taxes. The Republicans have done a good job scaring people about taxes. However, none of these people has to fear an increase. They are simply just too poor.
Taking people to the polls and voting early is critical now! Congressman Charlie Rodriguez holds strong in this Southwest District and has followed in his beloved father's footsteps. He fought strongly for the Public Option in health care and his base admires and loves him.
Speakers called attention to the adjacent congressional district, a short distance away, where Rep. Ciro Rodriguez is fighting for his life against negative, lying ads that criticize him for taxes and losing jobs while it has been the Republicans who have continuously fought every jobs bill that's come down the pike. His vote for health care may turn out to be a blessing in a very gerymandered district in which it is impossible to please everyone.
The luncheon’s organizers did a good job. They reminded everyone that there is plenty of time to do calling and walk door to door. The crowd left the restaurant by bus, van and foot to the nearest early voting poll. The long lines there are a good sign!