Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series that features leading politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.

The Latino Victory Project's mission has been to politically engage Latino voters, in addition to developing the next generation of Latino leaders. As the Latino electorate continues to move forward into the 2016 election season, Latino Victory Project President Cristóbal J. Alex told Latin Post about how the political parties have been faring with the voting bloc.

"What's clear is over the last few election cycles, our community -- the Latino community -- is proving to be the deciding factor in some of the most important elections of our time," said Alex.

For Alex, 2016 will be a seminal election year with a lot at stake for the future of the country, and the road of the White House "will flow through" the Latino community.

"You can already see that based on the Democratic presidential candidates and their hiring practices, their policy priorities and their outreach very much recognizing that Latinos are an important voting bloc and those on the right will soon recognize that a position or view that is viewed as 'anti-immigrant' or 'anti-Latino' is very problematic for them, particularly in Latino battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada and even New Mexico," Alex said.

Following the third Republican presidential primary debate, Alex said one takeaway that is becoming very clear is that the top GOP candidates are not following up with the Republican National Committee's (RNC) "Growth and Opportunity Project," a 2013 "autopsy" report that noted the political party's need to improve its Latino outreach.

"Unfortunately with this third GOP debate, we still are not seeing the top candidates take heed to that autopsy report. In fact, what we're seeing is more of the same immigration policies that simply won't work, that are designed to break up families instead of fixing our broken immigration system, environmental policies that do nothing to protect the environment for the future, workers' policy that don't protect our most vulnerable and do nothing to increase wages for a majority of Latinos," Alex said.

A positive from the third GOP debate, according to Alex, was the "less harsh" rhetoric from the candidates as they did not explicitly refer to communities as "rapists" or "criminals" compared to previous debates.

Following the third debate, many of the Republican presidential debates and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus voiced their dissatisfaction with how CNBC managed the debate. On Oct. 30, Priebus sent a letter to NBC News announcing the suspension of their sponsorship for a February 2016 debate. The Feb. 26 debate would have been screened on Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language channel in the U.S.

"I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not," the RNC chairman wrote.

Given the importance of the Latino community and some of the campaigns' "extreme" anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Alex said the GOP is making "a mistake" as the Telemundo debate would have been the chance to make some corrections.

Alex added that it is unfortunate to see the GOP disregard the Latino community. Alex said he wants the Republicans, including its candidates, to compete for the Latino vote, because it's better for Democracy, the future of the country and especially for the Latino electorate to know they are not being taken for granted.

"This is just further evidence that they aren't taking our community very seriously," Alex said.

In regards to the Democratic Party's presidential candidates, Alex acknowledged the campaign hires of Latinos, such as Amanda Renteria as Clinton's national political director and undocumented immigrants including Lorella Praeli on Clinton's campaign and Carlos Vargas on Bernie Sanders' campaign.

"At this point, we're pleased at the way those leading candidates are reflecting and speaking to our community," said Alex, noting that the Democratic presidential candidates have shown a further understanding of the importance of the Latino vote.

Alex also spoke about the first Latino-led and Latino-focused political action committee (PAC) known as the Latino Victory Fund. Between now and Election Day 2016, the Latino Victory Fund PAC will work to support candidates that reflects the Latino community and help them achieve success. As Latin Post reported, the PAC named its three honorary co-chairs -- New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas -- to help increase the Latino voter share for Latino candidates and grow the number of Latinos in elected office.

The Latino Victory Fund PAC will also be active to push back against those who demagogue or attack the Latino community.

"We simply can't standby, politically speaking, and let our community be attacked the way it has been recently. You will see very strategic efforts to protect our community and engage our community in a way that pushes back against anti-Latino candidates and anti-Latino rhetoric," said Alex.

Alex, if given the moment to address the presidential candidates, said he would remind them that the Latino community is poised to decide who will sit in the White House, and first 100 days in the Oval Office will be "incredibly important" for the community.

"We are interested, very much, in what the transition team will look like, we're interested in appointments and we're interested in making sure that we have a voice in the next administration that allows us to ensure our community is reflected in the policies that drives the country forward," said Alex.


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