By Thomas Oliva
The Latino political and demographic numbers are staggering in several directions at the same time. Below is a factual recounting of recent history and numbers.
First, by conservative estimates Latinos compromise anywhere from 35 percent to 40 percent of the population of Queens County.
Second, in the last two election cycles, several Latinas have run in the Democratic primary against candidates supported by the Queens County Democratic Party.
It appears four out of five — State Sen. Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Luz Maldonado-Cruz, the Democatic nominee for Civil Court judge — have won.
The fifth candidate, Tiffany Cabán, may have lost by the narrowest margin in county history.
Maldonado-Cruz, who ran in a primary against the County Democrats’ preferred candidate, won in a landslide. This has never happened in the history of Queens politics. Again, these are the facts, not hyperbole.
Third, more facts: Out of the 49 elected Queens Supreme Court judges, only four are of Latino descent.
Less than 10 percent of elected Supreme Court Justices in Queens County are Latino.
At present there are no known plans by the Queens Democratic Party to include any Latinos on the ballot for this fall’s race for Supreme Court Judge.
Out of the twelve judges presently sitting in Queens Civil Court, only one is a Latina. At present there are no known plans by the Queens Democratic Party to include any Latinos on the ballot for this fall for Civil Court Judge.
In Queens Criminal Court, there are four Latino Judges. There are no Latino Justices in the Appellate Term, Second, Eleventh and Thirteenth Judicial Departments.
Some people may not see the connection between the three points above. Some people may not see the deep frustration driving the marginalized Latino vote away from the Queens County Democratic Party. Some people may wish to write off the above losses as anomalies. Or worse yet, some people may just want to throw their hands up and say nothing is to be done about the rising tide of Latino empowerment and attempt to hold on to the “status quo” until the end.
Either view fails to recognize certain core values shared by the many Latinos who live in Queens.
Many immigrants who moved to Queens, like my parents, moved here to stake out a stable middle class life. A hard-working, church-going, good-school-attending existence.
But for all their hard work and efforts they have, until recently, failed to see their sons and daughters attain a part of the governmental structure which affects their daily lives without having to go outside the system and run against it.
This is the definition of political marginalization.
For decades the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County has, in fits and starts, attained some measure of judicial representation in an attempt to get the judiciary in Queens to reflect those who appear before them.
The facts show the successes have been too few. There have been allies like Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker, but the facts show that the allies have been far too few.
Either it is time for the Queens County Democratic Party to allow us to work with them and achieve our well earned seat at the table, or we welcome you to the land of the marginalized.
This editorial written on behalf of the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County was authored by, Thomas M. Oliva, who is president of the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County and a former board member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. He is a senior trial attorney at the personal injury firm of Pena & Kahn.