Governor agrees to debate in Spanish

Staff and wire reports

SANTA FE — Democratic presidential hopefuls Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd have agreed to participate in a candidate debate in September that’s to be conducted in Spanish.

The news was met with a favorable response by two area residents who have strong ties to the Hispanic community.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Robert Sandoval, a commissioner for the city of Clovis and Curry County. “It gives our Spanish-speaking populace a chance to get more involved and to listen directly to the issues.”

Hearing the information in Spanish prevents misinterpretation, he noted.

Sandoval, himself Hispanic and bilingual, said he has lived most of his life in Clovis’ District 3, which he represents on the Clovis City Commission. He represents District 1 on the Curry County Commission. He described both districts as predominantly Hispanic.

“A lot of people that speak and understand Spanish are very interested in the voting process,” he said. “This will help them.”

David Briseno is executive director of the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education and executive director of federal/bilingual programs and community relations for Clovis Municipal Schools.

He agreed with Sandoval’s assertion of the value of utilizing Spanish to present information to the public.

“From a person who is bilingual … that’s fantastic,” Briseno said of the debate being conducted in Spanish. “The fact that it’s two national candidates really brings legitimacy to the dual-language program in Clovis.”

Univision Communications Inc., the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster, has invited candidates to a debate planned Sept. 9 at the University of Miami.

“Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of our population and this is a unique chance for all of the candidates to hear and address the concerns and priorities of this important constituency,” Richardson said in a statement on Wednesday.

Richardson, who is fluent in Spanish, is the nation’s only Hispanic governor. He was born in California, but spent his early childhood in Mexico City.

Dodd, a senator from Connecticut, also is fluent in Spanish. He lived in the Dominican Republic while serving in the Peace Corps.
“The next president needs to be someone who can speak to this important segment of our population, and those within our same hemisphere, on issues from immigration to education to foreign affairs,” said Dodd.

Univision says the presidential debate would be the first conducted in Spanish. Simultaneous translation is to be provided to candidates and viewers.

— CNJ News Editor Jean Verlich contributed to this report.