Posted by: Manuel Delgado | August 7, 2010

California Governor race is getting caliente

In November, Californians will elect a new governor. The race is close, but this is not surprising.

While the state has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold, the Governor’s role has alternated between Democrats and Republicans, with the GOP having a slight edge: of the last 5 governors, 3 have been Republicans and 2 Democrats.

What makes this interesting to watch is that 20% of registered voters in California are Latinos.

To put this in perspective, 37% of the population of Texas is Hispanic, making it the second largest Latino state in the US. Hispanics, however, only make 5% of the state’s registered voters.

Of course, with such close race, Latinos will make a difference.

In the contest for Governor, Democratic Jerry Brown faces Republican Meg Whitman. The backgrounds of the candidates could not be more different.

San Francisco-native Brown is a career politician. He was governor of California for two terms in the 70s, ran in the 92 primaries against  Bill Clinton and became mayor of Oakland in 1998.

Meg Whitman, on the other side, is a career woman. After receiving a Harvard MBA she moved to California. There she worked at Bain, P&G, Disney, Hasbro and other blue chip companies.

In 1998 she became the CEO of eBay and took it from being a $5 million startup to becoming an $8 billion corporation. An astounding growth of 1600 times in ten years.

Recent reports show Whitman gaining ground with Latinos, including a Field Poll in July that showed her and Brown tied among Hispanic voters. Unusual for a Republican, but not surprising.

This is simply the result of a very well planned and intentional outreach and marketing campaign.

Whitman not only placed billboard ads stating her opposition to the Arizona’s SB 1070, but she’s also promoting her plan to create jobs for Latinos. Her campaign has included Spanish-language radio and TV ads, a Spanish-language website, a Spanish-speaking spokesman and personal appearances in Hispanic areas.

Of course, this is causing strong reactions from Democrats. The horror! A Republican getting Hispanic votes!

They are either dismissing the polls or calling her outreach disingenuous and (this was a new one for me) “Hispandering”.

Jerry Brown said on a statement  “Meg Whitman has been telling one story in English, and a different story in Spanish. It’s no surprise that California’s Latino voters are rejecting her cynical lies.” Whether this is true or not, at least she’s speaking Spanish. Brown is not.

He even admitted his lack of outreach by spinning it: “Listen,” he said, “you can put up your billboards in Spanish and you can buy stuff on Spanish television, but the people aren’t fooled. The people know the truth.”

No, Mr. Brown. The people doesn’t know the truth. They can’t guess the truth. You have to tell them what you think the truth is. And then, the people will make a decision. But you have to communicate. To reach out.

Predictably, he’s now stepping up his Hispanic efforts. A few weeks ago his campaign hired its first fluent Spanish speaker, and a spokesman said his website will be translated into Spanish soon. Spanish-language ads are probably on the works.

So, why has Meg been courting Latinos, while Jerry hadn’t? Very simple:  Meg’s a business person.

She can see what is obvious for us in the Hispanic marketing space: that no matter what you’re selling, whether it is cleaning products, bubble gum or leadership, Latinos are a force that can make a difference.

Bottom line: Latinos will decide who gets to be the next governor of California. Both Meg and Jerry know it. Can’t wait to see what they do about it.



  1. Excellent blog.

    I’d also add that Dems in CA have taken Hispanic votes as a given–not worth pursuing since they’re locked in. But no more. In the 70s, Jerry Brown earned the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” for his flaky style and nature.

    How do you say Moonbeam in Spanish?

    • This is funny. In Spanish it would be “Rayo de Luna.”

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