MERIDEN — U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty received some campaign help from a California Congresswoman Thursday to get Latino voters to the polls this November.
U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., a Mexican-American, spoke in Spanish to the 45 or so people gathered at Casa Boricua De Meriden about the need for unity among all Latino voters on voting to pass comprehensive immigration reform, grow jobs, and protect food, housing, Medicare and Medicaid and other programs that impact the Latino community.
“We need more Democratic women in Congress,” Sanchez told the group. “Because Republicans want to cut, cut, cut. The Senate passed immigration reform and the House won’t even take it up.”
But her Republican opponent Mark Greenberg’s campaign criticized Esty’s stop in the city ahead of time stating that the freshman Congresswoman was demeaning minorities by using photo ops as political ploys that insult voters. Two members of Greenberg’s staff attended the event, but wouldn’t comment to the media.
“The fact is that Esty is neither understanding nor sympathetic to the concerns of her constituents, regardless of where they live or what language they speak,” the Greenberg campaign stated in a press release prior to the event.
The campaign quotes a recent Connecticut Mirror story about the importance of minorities in the fifth-district Congressional race that reported: “As she did two years ago, the lawmaker, a Congregationalist, has been attending black churches in her district.”
Greenberg’s camp also pointed out the Mirror reported: “Esty has also asked for help from Hispanic activists in her effort to reach out to Latino voters. (She pointed out that she doesn’t speak Spanish, which would help, “but it’s on my to-do list.)”
Campaign manager Bill Evans said the remarks would be “widely condemned if they came out of the mouth of a Republican.”
“Ms. Esty may have heard Mark discussing these issues at the 2013 Meriden / Wallingford NAACP Freedom Fund dinner had she attended the event — however, since 2013 was not an election year apparently minority voters were not her highest priority in an odd numbered year,” Evans said.
Esty’s campaign spokeswoman Laura Maloney confirmed Esty didn’t attend the event because it conflicted with the IBEW Local Union 35 anniversary dinner dance, but she plans on going to the NAACP event on Nov 8.
However, Esty has attended the Puerto Rican Festival, and National Night Out which draws a diverse crowd in Meriden. She also attended the NAACP dinner in New Britain and the Madre Latina Gala in Waterbury and has visited churches like the New Hope Baptist Church in Danbury and Mount Olive AME Zionist Baptist Church in Waterbury, in the two years she’s been in congress on Sundays, Maloney said.
According to Evans, Greenberg has attended prior Black Expos, the Puerto Rican Festival and National Night Out in the city.
How many minority voters show up at the polls, and who they vote for, is expected to make a difference this year in the competitive races for the state’s 4th and 5th District congressional seats, where Democratic Rep. Jim Himes and Esty, respectively, will be trying to hold on to their jobs, the Mirror reported.
Maloney called Greenberg’s claims “ridiculous.”
“The fact that Mark Greenberg is actually criticizing Elizabeth for wanting to learn how to speak Spanish just shows once again how out of touch he really is,” Maloney said.
“It’s just ridiculous because we have such a diverse community, she’s been out talking to people in the past two years while in Congress and continues to do so.”
Esty, who led a forum on immigration reform this summer with City Councilor Miguel Castro, said the issues affecting Latinos also impact voters in Roxbury. Immigration reform is one of the most important things we can do for our economy, she said. Castro attended Thursday’s event with state Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-84, and Mildred Torres-Ferguson, chairwoman of the Meriden Democratic Town Committee.
“Latinos are very concerned about the future of their children,” Esty said. “People are concerned about social security. They are concerned about the uncertainty.”
Esty said she’s met numerous times with Latino groups in Greater Waterbury, in addition to Polish, Albanian, Ukranian and Brazilian groups, African-Americans and questioned whether or not Greenberg understood the role of a Congressional representative.
“I do this by being out in the community, Esty said.
Greenberg’s campaign said he’s sharing a message of “opportunity and a better future for every resident of the 5th district, regardless of race, age, religion or town.”
“Mark talks about the issues that matter most to our citizens: jobs and the economy —and he takes the time to share with voters that a strong economy will help residents of the 5th District no matter where they live or what language they speak,” Evans said.