Yuma County support for Kerry mirrors national trend
John Kerry may not have walked away with Yuma County's Hispanic vote in the state's presidential preference election two weeks ago, but he'll have their solid backing in November if he's the Democratic presidential nominee, local Democrats say.
Tony Reyes, vice chairman of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors and former mayor of San Luis, Ariz., said although Democratic candidate John Kerry's campaign leading to Arizona's primary elections was not strong in Yuma County, the way the national media covered Kerry's message swayed many voters to back him.
At the same time, the media did not portray other candidates - like former five-term Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose Yuma campaign was strong - the same way.
"I will never underestimate the power the media has in shaping people's opinions," Reyes said. "The change in perception in Yuma County has a lot more to do with the national scene and the results of the (other) primaries than it did in Yuma County."
Reyes said that Kerry's message during the latter portion of his campaign became more sensitive and personal to the American people because they felt like he connected with them with his issues on education and health care, Reyes said.
With a win in Tuesday's Wisconsin primaries, Kerry can help secure his lead over other Democrats, which would reduce the chances for hopefuls such as Dean to come from behind and win the party's nomination.
Reyes, who supported Kerry since the beginning of his campaign, said that Kerry's issues especially touch the Hispanic population because they are very family-oriented and generally cannot afford health care and education.
Reyes said although many of Kerry's issues are geared toward Hispanics, the local Hispanic population did not particularly vote strongly for Kerry because they do not know him very well.
"Being from the East where really the Hispanic presence is small and not being in the national scene for a long time, I don't think we can ask him to be so much attuned to Hispanic issues," Reyes said. 'He hasn't been immersed in what we believe sensitizes people to Hispanic issues."
But on the other hand, Kerry connects to Hispanics because of the issues that he supports, Reyes said. He added that Kerry should be a strong candidate for president of the United States in the general election - if he is the Democratic candidate - because most Hispanics do not want to see President George W. Bush in office for another four years.
In Arizona's Feb. 3 presidential preference election, Kerry received 2,057 votes from all Yuma County Democrats, compared with 724 votes for Dean and 925 for retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who has since dropped out of the race. In the San Luis and Somerton precincts, Kerry edged Dean 297 to 225.
San Luis Mayor Guillermina Fuentes said although she voted for Dean, she said the Hispanic people will support Kerry.
"He's going to have the support of (the Hispanic population)," Fuentes said. "Because we're Democrats, and I don't like Bush personally."
Yuma County Attorney Patricia Orozco, a Kerry supporter, said Hispanics are excited about Kerry because of the affordable health care he pushes and other issues that pertain to Hispanics.
Jacob Lopez can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6872.