Posted on November 6, 2013

Latino Voters Say Health Care, Controversial Remark Spur Them to Turn out for McAuliffe

Luz Lazo and Debbi Wilgoren, Washington Post, November 5, 2013

Some Latinos who turned out to vote in the Northern Virginia suburbs on Tuesday said they were supporting Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor because they believed his opponent is anti-immigrant.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli II, Virginia’s attorney general, was pilloried in a Democratic campaign commercial for a remark he made criticizing a D.C. law on pest control, which he claimed prevented the killing of rats.

“It is worse than our immigration policy,” Cuccinelli said in a 2012 radio interview. “You can’t break up rat families . . . and you can’t even kill ’em.”

In a Spanish-language television ad that aired last month, Virginia’s Democratic Party denounced the comment — which Cuccinelli’s campaign said was taken out of context.

“He was talking about how disturbing it was that our laws treat rats better than people, because our laws let us break up immigrant families,” Republican Party spokesman Garren Shipley said.

But judging by interviews with Latino voters on Tuesday, the ad — which aired heavily on Spanish-language television in the weeks leading up to the election — resonated.

“He talks about our community with no respect,” said Umberto Adrian, a Manassas resident who was born in Bolivia and has lived in Virginia for 30 of his 60 years. “I can’t understand why a professional like him would refer to immigrants as if they are not human.”

Some Latino voters who said they were spurred to action by the commercial appeared to have their own interpretations of what Cuccinelli actually said.

“Cuccinelli called Hispanic people rats,” said Mary Alba, 74, a retired bakery worker. “I want people in office who know we need immigrant people. In this country we need people like immigrants, who work hard.”