Press Advisory

Latino Voters: Misconceptions and Reality

Renowned experts gather to discuss Latino voters’ voting attitudes and patterns

WASHINGTON, DC – Latinos are the fastest growing major segment of the U.S. population; consequently, their electoral participation stands to have a profound effect on the policy direction of our country in the years and decades to come.  Despite this dynamic, there is a great deal of misinterpretation about the precise contours of the Latino electorate and the issues that resonate with them.  To delve into these important and timely topics, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Center for American Progress will convene a group of nationally renowned experts who will discuss the demographics, registration and voting patterns, and the multitude of issues that motivate Latino voters.

Friday, February 16, 2007, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Breakfast will be served at 8:30 AM

Welcoming Remarks:

Dan Restrepo, Director, The Americas Project, Center for American Progress

Session I: The Nature, Size, and Potential of the Latino Electorate

Luis Fraga, Associate Professor of Political Science, Stanford University and co-principal investigator, Latino National Survey
Gary Segura, Associate Professor, University of Washington, and co-principal investigator, Latino National Survey
Clarissa Martinez De Castro, Director, State Policy & Advocacy, National Council of La Raza
Ruy Texeira, Joint Fellow, Center for American Progress & The Century Foundation

Geri Mannion, Chair, Strengthening U.S. Democracy Program, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Session II: Resonant Issues in the Latino Electorate

Sergio Bendixen, CEO, Bendixen & Associates
Tamar Jacoby, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute
Celinda Lake, President, Lake Research Partners
Lionel Sosa, CEO, Mexicans & Americans Thinking Together (

Cecilia Munoz, Vice President, National Council of La Raza

Center for American Progress
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
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Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center

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Sergio Bendixen is the CEO of Bendixen & Associates, and is recognized as the preeminent expert in Hispanic public opinion research in the United States and Latin America. Bendixen graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1970 with a degree in chemical engineering. Following his studies at Notre Dame, he was employed by the Atlantic Richfield Corporation in Corpus Christi, Texas. However, a fascination with politics and a desire to understand how to shape public policy drew Bendixen into the political arena, opinion research, and the media. Bendixen has provided primary research and advice for clients both on a national and international level and has directed hundreds of demographic and attitudinal survey projects for statewide and congressional political races, major corporations, and not-for-profit organizations. Bendixen specializes in gathering information about Latino public opinion. The Columbia Journalism Review identifies Bendixen as the pioneer of multilingual polling, with surveys conducted in as many as 12 different languages. He spent 14 years working as a national television political analyst for four chief Spanish-language television networks: S.I.N. (1985-86), Univision (1987-92), CNN en Español (1993) and Telemundo (1994-98). He has also provided commentary for countless radio shows and print stories. Bendixen’s polls and writings have been featured in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Miami Herald. Bendixen also spent eight years in Washington, D.C., as Chief of Staff and Press Secretary to U.S. Representative William Lehman allowing him to develop a broad understanding of political and public policy issues. A native of Peru, Sergio Bendixen is the first and only Hispanic to have ever run a national campaign for U.S. President and has served as a senior consultant to two other presidential campaigns in both Costa Rica and Venezuela.

Luis Ricardo Fraga is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and School of Education (by courtesy) at Stanford University. He received his A.B., cum laude, from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Rice University. Fraga is one of six principal investigators on the Latino National Survey (LNS), the first-ever sixteen state-stratified survey of Latinos in the United States. The project, which has received $1.2M in support from major foundations and universities, asks questions regarding political attitudes, behavior, and beliefs. His primary interests are urban politics, education politics, voting rights policy, and the politics of race and ethnicity. He is co-editor of Ethnic and Racial Minorities in Advanced Industrial Democracies (Greenwood 1992). He was a member of the APSA standing committee on Civic Engagement and Education that co-authored the recently published Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation, and What We Can Do About It (Brookings Institution Press 2005). He is also co-author of the recently published Multiethnic Moments: The Politics of Urban Education Reform (Temple University Press 2006). He has published extensively in scholarly journals and edited volumes including Perspectives on Politics, The Journal of Politics, Urban Affairs Quarterly, Western Political Quarterly, Dubois Review, and the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. He is currently completing two additional books: The Changing Urban Regime: Toward an Informed Public Interest, a history of the political incorporation of Tejanos in San Antonio city politics from 1836-2005, and Missed Opportunities: The Politics of Schools in San Francisco, an examination of the implementation of a desegregation consent decree from 1983 to 2005.

Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes extensively on immigration and citizenship. She is a leading conservative voice in the media and elsewhere in favor of immigration reform, and works to organize the center-right behind reform proposals taking shape in Washington. Her 1998 book, Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration (Basic Books), tells the story of race relations in three American cities—New York, Detroit and Atlanta. The Economist magazine called it “arguably the most important study of race relations in America since Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma was published in 1944.” A more recent book, Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means To Be American, was published by Basic Books in February 2004. A collection of essays by a diverse group of authors—academics, journalists and fiction-writers on both the right and the left—it argues that we as a nation need to find new ways to talk about and encourage immigrant absorption in American society. Ms. Jacoby’s articles and essays have been published in a variety of periodicals, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The New York Review of Books, Dissent and Foreign Affairs. In addition to her published writings and media commentary, in the past few years she has been working behind the scenes in Washington to help develop immigration policy, writing policy papers, testifying in Congress and working with a range of congressional offices. In 2004, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Celinda Lake is one of the nation’s leading political strategists, serving as tactician and senior advisor to the national party committees, dozens of Democratic incumbents and challengers at all levels of the electoral process. Her work also took her to advise fledgling democratic parties in several post-war Eastern European countries, including Bosnia, and South Africa. Lake and her firm are known for cutting-edge research on issues including the economy, health care, the environment and education, and have worked for a number of institutions including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), The White House Project, America Coming Together, AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, IAFF, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, Emily’s List and the Kaiser Foundation. Prior to forming Lake Research Partners, Lake was partner and vice president at Greenberg-Lake. Her earlier experience includes serving as political director of the Women’s Campaign Fund, and as the Research Director at the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Policy Analyst for the Subcommittee on Select Education. Lake, a native of Montana and one of the political world’s most avid whitewater rafters, holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Survey Research from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and a certificate in political science from the University of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland. Lake received her undergraduate degree from Smith College in Massachusetts, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors and was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumna Medal by the College.

Geraldine P. Mannion is Chair of the Strengthening U.S. Democracy Program and the Special Opportunities Fund at the Carnegie Corporation. As chair of Carnegie Corporation’s Strengthening U.S. Democracy Program, Geri Mannion brings a wealth of experience about the role of philanthropy in challenging, improving and deepening the civic dialogue. She has chaired the division since 1998, after staffing the Corporation’s program of Special Projects for almost 10 years. Until recently, the Corporation’s grantmaking in civic participation was a subprogram in Special Projects. In addition to supporting projects that focus on improving broad civic engagement, the U.S. Democracy Program focuses on strengthening the capacity of nonprofit organizations that contribute to a healthy civil society. Separately, Mannion continues to chair the Corporation’s Special Opportunities Fund, which is now housed within the Office of Vice President for Program and Director for Strategic Planning and Program Coordination. The fund allows the Corporation to respond to proposals that are important but not related to the foundation’s primary foci. A generalist, Mannion has spent more than 30 years in the field of philanthropy. Before joining Carnegie Corporation, she worked for the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Mannion holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in political science, both from Fordham University.

Clarissa Martinez De Castro is Director of State Policy and Advocacy for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). She manages NCLR’s policy advocacy efforts in Texas and California, and works with community-based organizations in other states to increase Latino engagement in policy debates. She oversees NCLR’s Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Project, focusing on electorate expansion strategies and civic engagement capacity-building, and the Emerging Latino Communities Initiative, which works with groups engaged in organizing in states with emerging Latino populations. Prior to NCLR, she served as public policy coordinator for the Southwest Voter Research Institute (Willie Velasquez Research Institute), as Assistant Director of the California-Mexico Project at the University of Southern California, as organizer with the Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (now UNITE), and as union representative with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) Local 11. She received her undergraduate degree from Occidental College, and her master’s degree from Harvard University. She was born and raised in the Mexican State of Sinaloa.

Cecilia Muñoz is Vice President for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, National Council of La Raza (NCLR). She supervises all legislative and advocacy activities conducted by NCLR policy staff covering a variety of issues of importance to Latinos, including civil rights, employment, poverty, farmworker issues, education, housing, and immigration. Her particular area of expertise is immigration policy; she started at NCLR as a Senior Immigration Policy Analyst in 1988. Ms. Muñoz serves on the Board of Directors for the Washington Office on Latin America, the Appleseed Foundation, and the Center for Community Change. She also serves on the U.S. Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch and the Executive Committee of the National Immigration Forum. Ms. Muñoz is the daughter of immigrants from Bolivia and was born in Detroit, Michigan. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. In June 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in recognition of her work on immigration and civil rights.

Dan Restrepo is the Director of The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress. In his role, Dan is responsible for the Center’s work related to the United States and its place in and relationship with the rest of the Americas. Dan, a first-generation American of Colombian and Spanish parents, served on the Democratic staff of the House International Relations Committee from 1993 to 1996. There he focused on all aspects of U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, including U.S. policy toward Haiti during its political transitions, U.S. counter-narcotics programs and policies, the consolidation of the Central American peace processes, U.S.-Cuba policy and the Mexican debt crisis among other matters. During his tenure on the International Relations Committee staff, Dan traveled extensively throughout the hemisphere meeting with government officials, civil society leaders, and opposition party leaders. Immediately before starting The Americas Project, Dan served as the Director of Congressional Affairs at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining American Progress, Dan spent three years as an associate at the law firm of Williams & Connolly, LLP. Prior to those years, Dan served as an attorney for the Florida Democratic Party during the 2000 election recount. From August through November 2000, he worked as the Research Director for the Florida Democratic Coordinated Campaign. Restrepo has appeared on a wide range of media outlets including CNN, CNN en Español, Univision, CNBC, TV Azteca, Telemundo, Reuters Television, and C-SPAN. His works have appeared in The Miami Herald, La Opinion, The Baltimore Sun, and elsewhere.

Gary Segura is Associate Professor of American Politics at the University of Washington, and Director of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1992. His work focuses on issues of political representation, and currently is focusing on the accessibility of government and politics to America’s growing Latino minority. Among his most recent publications are “The Mobilizing Effect of Majority-Minority Districts on Latino Turnout” in the American Political Science Review (2004), “War Casualties, Policy Positions, and the Fate of Legislators” in Political Research Quarterly (2004), and the edited volume Diversity In Democracy: Minority Representation in the United States, published in 2005 by the University of Virginia Press. Among his publications this year are “Earth Quakes and After Shocks: Race, Direct Democracy, and Partisan Change,” in the American Journal of Political Science, “Culture Clash? Contesting Notions of American Identity and the Effects of Latin American Integration,” in Perspectives on Politics, and “Explaining the Latino Vote: Issue Voting Among Latinos in the 2000 Presidential Election,” in the Political Research Quarterly. Earlier research has appeared in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, and other journals, and his work has been funded in four occasions by the National Science Foundations.

Lionel Sosa is CEO of the grassroots online think tank Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together ( He is also an independent marketing consultant, a portrait artist as well as a motivational speaker. He is the founder of Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates, now Bromley Communications, the largest Hispanic advertising agency in the U.S. and a recognized expert in Hispanic consumer and voter behavior, education and achievement. Lionel was named “One of the 25 most influential Hispanics in America” by Time Magazine in 2005 and is a member of the Texas Business Hall of Fame. He is the author of Think and Grow Rich, a Latino Choice published in 2006 by Random House, and The Americano Dream: How Latinos Can Achieve Success in Business and in Life, published in 1998 by Dutton. He was a media consultant for President George W. Bush in the 2004 campaign as well as in 2000. He has been Hispanic Media Consultant in six Republican presidential campaigns beginning in 1980. Currently, Sosa serves on the board of directors of PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service and, the largest bi-lingual online community in the country and serves on Eastman Kodak’s External Diversity Advisory Panel. Lionel has served on the Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System, the Board of Trustees for the University of the Incarnate Word, the Boards of Sesame Workshop, creators of Sesame Street, ACT (American College Testing) and Bank of America, Texas. He chaired both the United Way of San Antonio and the San Antonio Symphony. In the spring of 2001, Lionel was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. He was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of the Incarnate Word and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Ruy Teixeira is a Joint Fellow at the Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation. He is the author of five books, over a hundred articles, both scholarly and popular, and a weekly online column, Public Opinion Watch. His latest book is The Emerging Democratic Majority, written with John Judis (Scribner, 2002). Probably the most widely-discussed political book of the year, The Emerging Democratic Majority generated praise across the political spectrum, from George Will on the right to E.J. Dionne on the left, and was selected as one of the best books of the year by The Economist magazine. Teixeira holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution where he wrote the book, The Disappearing American Voter, now a standard reference work on voter turnout. The book was published in 1992, after which he moved to the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council, to start a political studies program for them. In 1994, he moved to another think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, to direct their Politics and Public Opinion Program and stayed there until 1999, when he moved to The Century Foundation. In 2000, he published America’s Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters (Basic Books), a widely-cited and controversial work credited with being a strong influence on the Gore campaign and selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR)—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations (CBOs), NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas – assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health. In addition, it provides capacity-building assistance to its Affiliates who work at the state and local level to advance opportunities for individuals and families.

NCLR’s Latino and Advocacy Project (LEAP) seeks to increase Latino participation in the political process by working with community organizations to build their capacity in the area of civic engagement; testing strategies to support electorate expansion and remove barriers to participation; conducting research, policy analysis, and advocacy to grow immigrant and Latino participation; and linking this emerging electorate with nonpartisan advocacy activities promoting the full integration of Latinos and immigrants into mainstream society.

The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress is focused on the United States‘ relationship with and place in the Americas. The United States is in the midst of dramatic changes that will profoundly affect its future and are manifest both in the rapid growth of its Latino population and the ever-increasing interconnections with its neighbors throughout the Americas. Through rigorous research and open collaboration, The Americas Project seeks to more fully explore and understand those changes, the relationships among them, and their implications for progressive policy abroad and at home. The America Project endeavors to formulate innovative policy recommendations to address those changing realities and, through active engagement of all forms of media, effectively communicate its proposals to a wide range of audiences.

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