NEWARK - Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is pushing New Jersey’s Latino community to register to vote before the November presidential election, and he’s urging them to vote against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Statistics show that there are more than 27 million eligible Latino voters nationwide; up 40 percent since 2008. Experts say the community makes up 12 percent of the general election voter pool and are an emerging voter block. There are more than 830,000 Latinos in New Jersey who are eligible to vote.
The Vince Lombardi Center in Newark has been set up for voter recruitment. Mayor Baraka’s plan is to sign up thousands of voters before the election.
The mayor sent out a release for the event that emphasized the importance of voting this year "now that Donald Trump has apparently clinched the Republican nomination, and is running on a platform that threatens the Latino community." Baraka’s team says that those words were carefully chosen.
"I don't think that Donald Trump represents our progress here in New Jersey, or in Newark specifically, whether you're talking about African Americans or Latinos,” the mayor says.
Pastor Pablo Pizarro, of Newark's Lighthouse Church, is among those caught off guard by Mayor Baraka’s message.
"I was surprised, but that's the way it works, in all of politics,” he says. “And it's something to stimulate the base."
Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos says that it is important for people to participate in an election, regardless of how they vote.
"The Latino and Hispanic community should play an important role in this presidential election,” he says. “But it starts here, and it starts in the community."
Mayor Baraka said that his administration will defer to community groups and nonprofits to organize Latino voters. He also says he plans to make an endorsement for president soon.
“We have to push back against this right-wing conservatism in my mind,” the mayor says. “I will endorse a candidate in the next couple of days."
Anyone who wishes to register to vote must do so three weeks prior to the election.