Nevada election had mixed results for Hispanics

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada Hispanics, the state's fastest-growing minority group, had a few gains, but many losses in Tuesday's elections.

The ballot in the Las Vegas area, where most of the state's Hispanics live, included a record 17 Hispanic candidates. But only four won.

"There were a lot of first-time candidates, and we need to learn how to do this better," said Aldo Aguirre, a losing university regent candidate in District 5.

Aguirre said his campaign ran out of money early, leaving him with 14,000 fliers. "I guess I'll use them for scrap paper," he said.

The first-time candidate also said both major parties focused only on top-of-the-ticket Hispanic candidates such as Democrat Dario Herrera, a losing U.S. House hopeful, and Republican Brian Sandoval, who was elected state attorney general.

Sandoval's win was big news for Hispanics statewide -- and an attention-getter nationwide -- as he became the only Hispanic in the nation to gain a state office for the Republicans, Gonzalez said.

The attorney general-elect said he already had some feelers from the Bush administration about taking a role in representing the GOP to the Hispanic voter.

Sandoval said he would do so if asked, and said he is "fiercely proud" of his heritage.

The other Hispanic winners in southern Nevada included Clark County District Judge Valorie Vega, state Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, and Clark County School Board member Larry Mason.

Larry Gonzalez, Washington office director for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, said the mixed election results can be attributed to the rapid growth in southern Nevada's Hispanic population -- 240 percent during the 1990s.

"It's an exciting state because of the growth, but it is still in its political infancy as far as Latinos go," he said.

Glen Arnodo, political director for the Culinary Union, which did its own "get out the vote" drive, said there's a need for a long-term strategy that includes helping more of the valley's 300,000-plus Hispanics get citizenship.

Beyond developing a wider base of voters, Gonzalez said a "grass-roots, community-based infrastructure" is needed. That would include developing local leadership and educating community members about the political process.


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