Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2000

3rd District influenced by minority population

October 31, 2000

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— Ut Ho has lived in the United States for more than a decade. She's a U.S. citizen but has never voted. She says it's so important, she doesn't want to make the wrong choice.

Ho works at the Della Lamb Community Service Center, helping immigrant families learn to read.

She says she watches campaign commercials on television and the candidates all seem to have good ideas. Back in Vietnam, she said, the choices were clear. Here, the choices are less certain.

"I think one vote is very important, and I don't know a lot about politics," she explained. "It's not that I don't want to, but everything is not clear."

Still, Ho encourages her family and others to vote.

She is part of a growing minority population in the metropolitan Kansas City area. The influence of the Asian and Latino vote on races at all levels including the 3rd Congressional District contest between incumbent Democrat Dennis Moore and Republican challenger Phill Kline is bound to rise with the swells in population.

But members of both the Asian and Latino communities say neither Democrats nor Republicans really have addressed issues that matter to them.

"I want to bring my family here," Ho said. "But it takes me a long time. So far I don't hear anyone talking about immigration."

The Latino community is also working to get more people to vote on Election Day. There were registration drives for Kansas and Missouri voters at Fiesta Hispana in Kansas City, Mo., in September.

Richard Ruiz, who lives in Kansas City, Kan., said Hispanics tend to register as Democrats, but they don't always vote a party line.

"I don't think Hispanics will be taken for granted," he said. "It's not what the party thinks is best for us it's what we think is best for us.

"Issues are the same for us as they are for other folks. We're concerned about education, health care, economic opportunity," said Ruiz, a Democrat and Moore supporter.

Esther Wolf, who lives in Johnson County, is active in getting Hispanics involved in politics. She's on the board of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, which encourages Hispanics to become aware of issues and vote.

"You can see that the growth is definitely there," she said. "We feel empowered now. Ten years ago we did not. Anywhere you go, the message is clear: Register and vote."

Census figures show the number of Asians and Latinos in the 3rd District which includes Johnson, Miami, Wyandotte and most of Douglas counties is growing.

Johnson County's population went from 357,000 in 1990 to 440,000 last year. Asian residents increased from 6,000 to 10,300 in that time, making them 2.3 percent of total, a 71 percent change.

Hispanics now comprise 13,600, or 3 percent of the district total, a 92 percent jump from a decade ago.

Hispanic figures in Wyandotte County are even larger. Of more than 151,000 people in 1999, Latinos accounted for 10 percent of the population.

Moore and Kline acknowledge the Hispanic communities in the district they're fighting to represent.

Both have links to Spanish versions of their campaign sites on the Internet.

Kline has a campaign worker to address Hispanic issues, and Moore has sent out materials highlighting topics such as immigration.

Still, Wolf said Democrats and Republicans need to learn about issues that matter to Hispanics.

"Neither party has been effective enough, and we need to educate both parties," the Republican said from her Lenexa home.

Another concern, as with any community, is that people won't get to polls.

Take Jose Sanchez. He lives in Mission and works at Dos Borrachos, a Mexican restaurant tucked in a strip mall in Lenexa. He says voting's important, but he's not registered.

"I don't have time, because I'm always working," he said.

This is why Ruiz will have a meeting the Friday before the election to contact and encourage Latino voters.

"We also have to make sure every Hispanic is going to know that that Tuesday is a very important day," he said.

Meanwhile, Ty Bui said Asians are not particularly loyal to either party. On a national scale, Bui and Ho preferred George W. Bush's ideas.

To win the Asian vote, "candidates should address protecting minority communities and provide good health care for elderly and low-income people," said Bui, acting director of the Don Bosco Nationality Center.

Asians are also hesitant about voting, Bui said.

"They seem to be reluctant to do that because they don't speak much English and they do not feel important" to candidates, he said.

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