As Goes California, So Goes the Nation

The selection of candidates based on their racial identity hasn't done wonders for California's government, but that's increasingly the main criteria for voters.

Latino-black political conflict could loom in California senate race
But Latinos were caught off-guard by Harris’s fast entry and the equally quick support she generated in Washington.

Her effective anointment by national party leaders, Latinos fear, leaves any Hispanic candidate at a distinct disadvantage and flies in the face that Latinos now are the state’s largest demographic group – more than five times the size of the African Americans population.

“I think Hispanic leaders are concerned about some kind of coronation, as opposed to a real electoral campaign,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “There are certainly talented Latinos who could run for that seat.”

Some California Democratic leaders fear the Latino-black fight could cause a breach in the longstanding minority-labor coalition that have helped Democrats control the state for much of the past half century.

“The last thing Democrats need is Latino so pissed off that we give them another reason for staying away from voting in droves,” says a party leader who is working behind the scenes to avoid a political bloodbath.

Causing friction among two communities?

Historically, the clash represents the changing political culture in California where black political power has been on the wane for the last quarter century.

In that time, Latinos have eclipsed African-Americans as political players in the state, which is why Harris emergence as a rising star has been a rallying cry.

Former California legislator Willie Brown, an African-America once considered the most powerful politician in the state, has recently even met with Villaraigosa, asking him to step aside for Harris’s sake.
When social mood turns negative again, the Democratic party will be spending much of its energy trying to keep the coalition from breaking apart.

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