Local News Post-Tribune

Porter County Dems forming Latino caucus

Former East Chicago Councilwoman Myrna Maldonado is helping build a Porter County Latino Democratic Caucus.

Maldonado, who now lives in unincorporated Porter Township, wants to boost Hispanic influence both in public office and at the ballot box.

“I count myself as very lucky that Myrna Maldonado moved into Porter County,” said County Democratic Party Chair Don Craft, who recruited her. “She’s bringing a lot of energy to this project.”

Craft said the goals for the new caucus are open-ended. Once the caucus coalesces, it will voice Latino issues it wants to address.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.3% of Porter County’s population is Hispanic. That figure is growing, Craft said, as more Hispanics move to the county.

The initial meeting for the caucus is Feb. 18 at Mexico Lindo Mexican Restaurant Bar & Grill in Portage.

Moving to Lakes of the Four Seasons four years ago was a big change for Maldonado, she said. She began asking who represented her on the City Council, only to find out she was not in a city.

In East Chicago, Maldonado serves 12 years on the council and 16 years as precinct chair. She also served as the city’s Democratic chair.

Maldonado isn’t looking to run for office, she said, but to help empower others to do so. Expect to see the caucus representatives active in voter registration drives and getting out the vote, she said.

“However I can help, I’m willing to do so,” Maldonado said.

She and Craft began working on this initiative a couple of months ago, she said. Since then, she has contacted a few hundred people who might be interested in joining the caucus. The response has been entirely positive, she said.

Natalia Galvan, head of the state party’s Latino caucus, suggested it to him after he became chair last summer. “I knew this was going to happen, but it finally happened,” he said.

Craft eventually found Maldonado and persuaded her to help. “He and I basically talked about having Latinos organized in a way where we would be building power in the Latino community,” she said. “That’s where we’re hoping to go with this group.”

“This is very much a team effort, Maldonado said.

“We’re Democrats, and we’re just looking to be inclusive,” she said.

Craft is eager to see what issues the Latino caucus will focus on. He expects the members to address immigration. “There’s very divided feelings on what can and should be done about that,” he said. But there will be other issues the members will identify as priorities, too.

“I think the end mission is still open-ended because they can decide what they want to do as a caucus,” Craft said. “I’m looking very much forward to seeing what they’re going to do.”

Craft is optimistic about the county party’s future and its prospects this year.

“I’m having a lot of fun with the job. We’ve grown the party; we’ve increased the number of precinct chairs who are active in the party,” he said.

“I think our national people will do well,” Craft predicted. At the state level, “I think we have some excellent candidates,” including gubernatorial contender Jennifer McCormick, who has served as superintendent of public instruction.

“Locally, I think we have a great slate,” including Dane Lafata and Dan Whitten, both strong candidates, running for county commissioner. The County Council candidates are good, too, he said.

“We saw a lot of women come out and vote” last year, and he expects them to vote again this year. “There’s a lot of women in Porter County who are still upset about Roe v. Wade being overturned,” he said.

Doug Ross is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

Doug Ross , 2024-02-03 17:27:57

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