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Growing Latino Electorate Reflected In NW Candidates

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

Exit polls show Latino voters helped push President Obama to victory on Tuesday. But there was another sign of the growing influence of Hispanics in the Northwest on election day: That was the actual names on the ballot.

A public radio analysis done before the election found that just 2 percent of the Northwest's elected officials were Latino.

Oregon may have nudged that up. Voters in the Portland area elected Jessica Vega Pederson and Joseph Gallegos, both Democrats, to the state House.

But redrawing a legislative district in Washington's Yakima Valley did not make a Mexican-American candidate there an instant winner. Twenty-one-year-old Democrat Pablo Gonzalez lost by a wide margin.

Still, Gonzalez says his campaign laid the groundwork for future Latino candidates.

“Well you know it woke some of us up. I know a lot of people who said they got a lot of their family members and people involved in voting," he says. "So I hope that continues.”

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials says Tuesday's election made history. A record 31 Latinos will hold seats in the new U.S. Congress -- including Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington and Raul Labrador in Idaho.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

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