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Latino Voters Show Increased Interest in Primary

By Angela Cave:

The role of Latino voters in Onondaga County came into sharp focus after New York's presidential primaries last week.

For the first time in five years, the community turned to the Syracuse-based Spanish Action League to learn about polling places and the importance of voting, according to director Rita Paniagua.

"Latinos are definitely paying attention to what the candidates have to offer," Paniagua said.

Hot topics in the community include immigration and poverty, according to Paniagua, whose organization aids about 7,500 people annually in areas such as housing, careers, youth development and language.

"The number is what speaks, and if we don't go out and vote, they'll never know that there's a huge need in this area," she said.

Latinos make up 4.4 percent of the Syracuse population and 12.5 percent of the United States population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Democrats in the group made up 10 percent of voters in the New York primary, while Republicans made up 4 percent of voters, according to the New York Times. Election results broken down by race are not available, a spokeswoman for the Onondaga County Board of Elections said.

Latino voters in the state overwhelmingly showed their support for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while no clear trend occurred among Republican voters.

Prior to Super Tuesday, Clinton claimed the support of about 59 percent of the Democratic Latino electorate, according to a 2007 Pew Hispanic Center survey taken between October and November.

Some Latinos in Syracuse said they do not align with this Democratic majority that supports Clinton.

"I'm somewhat disenchanted with the process, with the candidates," said Tere Paniagua, senior editor at Punto de Contacto/Point of Contact, Inc. publishing group in Syracuse.

Tere said neither of the frontrunners appeal to her or inspire any real hope.

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