LANSING, Mich. — There are more than 500,000 Hispanics in Michigan, making up more than 5% of the state's population. But right now in our state legislature, there are only four Hispanic members. Those members say they want more representation and participation from their communities in the government.
“We have three House members who are Latino and Latina, and also one Latina in the state Senate, a total of four currently serving," said state Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor.)
Garza says that number isn't enough.
“We're looking forward to changing that because we want to make sure that our legislature is reflecting our population because that is how the best policies are passed.”
Shane Hernandez was tapped to be Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon’s lieutenant governor. If elected, he could be our state’s first person of Hispanic descent in that position. He says there is real value in having representation from varied backgrounds.
“I think it's always good to have somebody from, from varied backgrounds," he said. "I come with a very different perspective than maybe some other people in the Republican caucus having been very low-income father that was a migrant worker.”
He explained that it’s especially important to have Latino leaders on both sides of the aisle. Historically in the U.S, a majority of registered Hispanic voters leaned toward voting Democrat. But according to the Pew Research Center, there's been a gradual increase in the number of Hispanic voters voting Republican.
“I think that's a great thing for the Latino population to have influence on both sides of the aisle, to be involved on both sides of the aisle," Hernandez said.
Both Garza and Hernandez tell me that representation means Latino communities have a voice in government. But despite efforts to recognize the Hispanic community in Michigan this week, the Michigan House decided against passing a resolution celebrating Hispanic Heritage month.
State Rep. Darrin Camilleri tweeted after the decision, in part, “I am stunned.”
A spokesperson for the Michigan House of Representatives tells me the resolution could still pass, but in the past, resolutions like this one have easily passed with bipartisan support. Why this time was different? We just don't know.
Garza says the way he’s hoping to get more people of Hispanic descent into office is by mentoring and encouraging young people. He says that can mean serving on a library board, the local school board or running for higher office.
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