- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A new ad urging Hispanic voters to reject both parties by sitting out this year’s elections has enraged Hispanic groups, drawn condemnation from the Univision television network and spawned the question of how Hispanics who are upset over the lack of action on immigration should register a protest vote this year.

“Don’t vote this November,” says the ad, sponsored by Latinos for Reform. “This is the only way to send them a clear message: you can no longer take us for granted.”

The ad is running in Las Vegas, where its chief target is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat who political analysts say will need a huge turnout by Hispanics if he is to turn back Republican challenger Sharron Angle.

Robert Deposada, a leader of the group, said Hispanics are angry at Republicans’, but also blame Democrats, who on the strength of their party’s votes pushed through health care and the stimulus package, but refused to address immigration without the GOP.

“They’re obviously angry at Republican rhetoric, which in many cases has been completely irresponsible. On the other hand, they’re very angry the Democratic Party has been promising for years they’re going to act on this issue, and they haven’t,” he said. “The only option they have is basically saying you know what, I’m not going to settle for the lesser of two evils.”

Mr. Reid’s defenders say the ad misses the mark.

“They should take it off. It’s a lie,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, the Illinois Democrat who has taken a leadership role on immigration since the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. Mr. Gutierrez was in Nevada this week campaigning for Mr. Reid, and has made other stops in Florida and Ohio, stumping for fellow Democrats.

Univision, the country’s largest Spanish-language broadcast network, said Tuesday that it won’t run the ad. A spokeswoman said the network “prides itself on promoting civic engagement and our extensive national campaigns encourage Hispanics to vote.”

But staying home or turning out is an age-old dilemma for many voters, and both parties can point to elections they suspect they lost because some segment of voters who thought they were being taken for granted didn’t turn out in full force.

Hispanics, fueled by massive voter registration drives, saw major surges in turnout in 2006 and 2008, but action on immigration has lagged. A bill failed to pass the Senate in 2007, and President Obama failed to make good on his campaign pledge of signing a bill early in his tenure.

That has left Hispanic leaders this year grappling with how to translate their growing strength into political gains - and some fear they risk being taken for granted by Democrats. That was a key message in March, when tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters amassed on the Mall for a rally in Washington.

“President Obama, members of Congress, do not mess with us,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a member of the Maricopa County, Ariz., Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Gutierrez earlier this year suggested that Hispanics might stay home to protest lack of action, but he said Tuesday that Mr. Reid has earned their support.

“Democrats have not delivered on immigration reform nationally, but to attack Harry Reid in Nevada makes no sense whatsoever,” he said. “Sen. Harry Reid has been a stalwart ally fighting for sensible immigration policies and for working people, immigrants, Latinos, and families.”

Brent A. Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the ad campaign should, and will, backfire.

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