According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics make up about 13% of Utah’s population. Conservative estimates say that number could be 20% by the year 2050. Depending on economic development and migration, it could be even more. In fact, minorities could make up ⅓ of the state’s population by that time.
Right now there are already sections of the state with a minority-majority population. 80% of the preschool children in Salt Lake City’s River District are minorities, and most of the cities in northern Salt Lake County have minority-majority populations of young people as well.
Don’t believe the tide is changing? Go to a Real Salt Lake game and look at the makeup of the crowd. It’s striking how many minorities, and young minorities, are spending their disposable income there. It’s clearly a bellweather of things to come.
Democrats clearly have the edge right now. Most of the minority legislators on the Hill are Democrats. They have a much more active minority caucus system than Republicans. But only one of the new minority candidates they ran in 2012 won - the same success rate for Utah’s Republicans.
There are opportunites here for both parties.
If Republicans can field one or two viable minority candidates in 2014 and knock off a Democrat made vulnerable by redistricting, that could change the whole debate. It would give the party some much-needed credibility among minority groups.
Likewise, if Democrats are able to get a minority candidate elected outside of Salt Lake County they could build some momentum moving forward. Actually, Democrats need to work on getting any candidate elected outside of Salt Lake County.
I’m not pretending to understand how to appeal to minority groups, but I do know the key is authenticity. Pandering doesn’t work. Saying you are going to “target minority voters” usually means you have no idea how to speak to minority voters.
When I worked in Denver producing Colorado Rockies radio broadcasts, play-by-play man Wayne Hagin gave me a great piece of advice that applies here. If you’re not authentic, if you try to fake it, your audience will sniff that out in a heartbeat - and you’ve lost them.
Yes, the 2013 Legislature is still in session. Yes, the 2014 elections are more than a year away. But this outreach and communication needs to start sooner rather than later.
Republicans would be wise to start identifying candidates now and grooming them. A little bit of party support and training would go a long way.
Democrats should capitalize on the built-in advantage the party already has among minority groups. Nationally, Hispanic voters tilt toward Democrats by a 2-1 margin. It would be folly for Democrats to assume they will have built-in support among Utah’s minority population going forward.
There is danger for both parties as well.
If Republicans chose to ignore minority groups until they prove to be the deciding factor in an important race, they may lose any chance to attract that voting block for a generation.
Democrats need to focus on candidate recruitment and provide them with the resources to get elected.
Here’s an idea - how about focusing on developing minority-owned businesses?
Utah officials like to tout that the state is #1 for business, but that success is not filtering down to minority populations - particularly Latinos.
Right now only 3.7% of businesses in the state are owned by Hispanics.
That’s a lot of untapped economic development potential. Too bad neither party is doing much to foster this segment of the economy.
It could prove decisive in future elections.
Utah Democrats finally got off the stick and entered the fray surrounding John Swallow.
You will remember I advised them on this course of action last week.
However, their call for an independent prosecutor is a bowl of weak sauce, especially since nearly every newspaper and at least one prominent Republican has already called for Swallow’s resignation.
Too little, too late. It’s a disappointing effort for the state’s minority party and not the kind Democrats deserve.
This is the kind of thing that Democrats could have, and should have, called for when the allegations against Swallow first surfaced. But, Utah’s minority party is late to the fight, losing momentum and falling behind.
Had this call come a month ago, it would have carried more weight - and would have allowed Democrats to put pressure on Gov. Herbert.
As it stands, Democrats are once again at the back of the line, advocating something politically safe when bolder action would serve them better.
What have Democrats got to lose?