In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie sailed to re-election with 60 percent of the vote in the Garden State. According to exit polls reported by NBC News, over half – 51 percent – of Hispanic voters in the state voted for the Republican governor.
After Tuesday night’s victory, Izzy Santa, the Hispanic Media communications director of the Republican National Committee, (RNC), made clear that Christie’s victory was significant in how a Republican reached out to Latinos and other minorities.
“In this race Gov. Christie earned significant support among minority voters. That’s a testament to the success of his results-oriented leadership and an inclusive campaign. During this race, the RNC worked alongside the Christie campaign to engage early and often with Hispanic, African American and Asian voters,” stated Santa.
Following Christie’s win Monday night, Bob Quasius, founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans, formerly of New Jersey, stated “Chris Christie ran a strong campaign that stressed Reagan’s big tent, particularly among Latinos, and tonight’s resounding victory underscores the importance. Chris Christie has demonstrated that Republicans can win the Latino vote, something we’ve been saying now for years. Christie truly ‘gets it’ when it comes to Latinos, and his engagement is a model for other candidates to follow.”
The day before the election, the New Jersey governor, who made national headlines during his very visible role after Hurricane Sandy, was campaigning with a fellow Republican – and also a Latina – New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
And less than two months ago, the governor was questioned by Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country by their parents, at a public event, wanting to get his support for in-state tuition for undocumented students in New Jersey colleges. Though he had said no in the past, he came out in support of in-state tuition for Dreamers.
Democratic candidate Barbara Buono’s running mate, Milly Silva, was Latina and had support from the state’s unions and progressive groups. Buono and Silva campaigned on the state’s persistent unemployment and on the fact that Christie had vetoed a minimum wage increase.
But the Republican New Jersey governor is credited with courting Latino voters from the start of his first term, according to Martin Perez, president of The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey Political Action committee.
The group endorsed the Republican governor in February, citing his work on education, his expansion of Medicaid regarding the health care law and his setting “…aside rigid partisan political boundaries to address the needs of the people, from the victims of Hurricane Sandy, to the needs of small businessmen and women.”
In his victory speech on Tuesday night, Christie, who is talked about as a less rigidly ideological 2016 Republican candidate, said, “We don’t just show up in the places that vote for us a lot, we show up in the places that vote for us a little. We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable, we show up in the places where we’re uncomfortable.”
On Tuesday night, the New Jersey governor decided to hold his victory celebration in Convention Hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey, a predominantly minority shore town known for its iconic music scene which had suffered during superstorm Sandy.
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the RNC, said about Christie, “He’s proved that a conservative Republican can get votes from Hispanics and African-Americans, that a pro-life governor can get votes from women. This means that those voters are available to us, that we’re not shut out demographically or geographically – that it’s worth the effort.”
Latino Decisions political scientist Sylvia Manzano said Christie’s support from Latinos is an interesting contrast to Virginia Republican Ken Cuccinnelli, who narrowly lost Monday’s election to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
“Christie didn’t take an antagonistic approach – he wasn’t about ‘here’s the groups I don’t like, I don’t like immigrants, or gay marriage’ and he literally embraced diversity, when he talked about all the different people he had hugged in the campaign. That was meant to speak to the potential non-white Republican voter. Christie was saying, ‘I’m with you, and we have a lot in common.’ It’s all the things the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity report told us,” she said.
In contrast, Manzano said that Cuccinelli’s Tea Party backing and the fact he was not seen as supportive of immigrants was a stark difference to Christie.
In a recent Business Insider article, a Latina Democrat, Blanca Diaz, said she supported Christie because unlike other governors, he regularly went to her predominantly Democratic urban enclave of Union City, New Jersey. “The other governors, they never come here,” she said.
Latinas made inroads in other locations.
In Detroit, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez became the first Latina city council member. She was elected to represent the city’s southwest where she grew up, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Castaneda-Lopez, whose father immigrated from Mexico, will represent an area of more than 41,000 Hispanics, as well as white and African-American residents, the newspaper reported.
New York’s City Council has its first Mexican-American member. Carlos Menchaca, 32, defeated 11-year incumbent Sara Gonzalez. Menchaca was raised by a single mother who immigrated from Mexico, according to his campaign bio. He also is openly gay.