Gubernatorial elections telling when it comes to immigration policy

Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters in two states – New Jersey and Virginia – went to the polls to decide who their governor would be, and the results in both races could have a major impact on immigration policy going forward.

In both New Jersey and Virginia the election outcomes were heavily influenced by Latino voters. According to The New York Times, that should show legislators in other states, and those who aspire to office, that their views on immigration reform will go a long way toward determining their political fate.

Latino voters make noise in New Jersey
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was re-elected in a landslide victory, with substantial help from the state’s Latino population. Christie won half of the Latino electorate, an 18 percent improvement over his first run for governor four years ago. And much of that success is attributable to his open-minded stance on immigration reform, a view that is likely to resonate with his Republican colleagues across the country.

“I think the national party is going to draw inspiration from what Christie did,” John Feehery, a Republican strategist, told the Times. “The bigger lesson is you can’t just go to Hispanic communities six months before an election and say, ‘Hey, I need your vote.’ I think immigration reform fits into this.”

Latinos decisive in Virginia
Virginia’s gubernatorial race was much closer, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe edging out his Republican rival, Dennis Cuccinelli, by a mere 55,000 votes. Gary M. Segura, who interviewed Hispanic voters in Virginia on the eve of the election as part of his job as the head of Latino Decisions, a polling organization, estimates that 35,000 of those votes came from Latinos.

Cuccinelli barely made an effort to woo Latino voters during his campaign, and it was one of the major reasons he ended up losing. It’s yet another lesson that should have national ripple effects in next year’s election cycle, as well as in the current immigration reform debate in Washington, D.C.