Correction to This Article
This article misstated the title of Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli. She is the director of Hispanic communications for the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, not the communications director.

Clinton, Obama Target Latinos, Northern Virginia

Presidential candidates are targeting Latinos and other immigrant votes in the Washington area.
By Sylvia Moreno, Steve Hendrix and Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are aggressively targeting Latino and immigrant voters in the Washington area, especially Northern Virginia, for Tuesday's Potomac Primary, as the region's foreign-born communities have grown so rapidly that their ballots could be decisive in a close electoral contest.

The two have brought their historic battle to the region, with Clinton determined to reap the benefits of her long-term popularity among Latino voters and Obama fighting to chip away at that support.

Clinton campaign workers will canvass Spanish-language church services in Northern Virginia today, and the candidate is scheduled to appear in Manassas. Tomorrow night, the campaign is sponsoring a "Latinos for Clinton" rally in Falls Church.

Among Obama's stops in Virginia today will be a town hall meeting at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria. In addition to Obama's appearances in Maryland tomorrow, campaign volunteers are speaking at church services today, going door-to-door in Alexandria and Silver Spring. They are organizing phone banks in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese languages in the District, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City this weekend. All the calls will target Virginia voters.

"Every single one of those votes will count," said Annabel Park, 39, a Silver Spring filmmaker and Obama phone bank organizer. "The impact the Latino vote had in California should be the signal to them that it can happen here as well."

Clinton communications director Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli said Super Tuesday wins and strong national support from Latinos don't mean that the campaign isn't "going to fight for" Hispanic votes in the Washington area primaries.

The Obama campaign is certainly on its heels, hoping to find a generational crack in Clinton's usual rock-solid support among Hispanic voters, which runs as high as 65 percent nationally and provided her margin of victory in California on Super Tuesday.

Hispanic voters in the area are a fraction of the huge Latino blocs in California, Nevada, Florida and New York. In the District, 4 percent of voters are Hispanic; 3 percent of voters in Maryland and Virginia are Latino.

The Latino vote here skews young. In Virginia and Maryland, almost a third of Latino voters are 18 to 29; overall in the nation, 21 percent of Latino voters are in that age bracket. In the District, younger Latinos account for 36 percent of Hispanic voters, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

Because the election boards in the District, Maryland and Virginia do not include ethnicity on registration applications, tracking Latino voting habits is difficult. Only once have Latinos made up more than 3 or 4 percent of the electorate in any area jurisdiction. In the 2004 general election, Hispanics accounted for 7 percent of the vote in Northern Virginia, according to exit poll data.

But election officials know that the Latino vote in Maryland is heavily concentrated in the D.C. suburbs.

No matter the population size, however, Latino voters throughout the region are learning what it's like to be coveted in a fiercely contested political race.

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