Del. Mark Keam Rips Barbara Favola’s “Offensive” Comments About Latinos, Puerto Rico Donations

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    Del. Mark Keam tells me that he has not endorsed in the 31st State Senate district Democratic primary, nor does he intend to do so. However, he came across the bizarro Barbara Favola phone call story I posted on Blue Virginia the other day, and it prompted a strong reaction from him — particularly the part where Favola says there are no Latinos in the district, implying that Jaime Areizaga-Soto is unelectable for that reason, and also that he’s received most of his donations from friends and family in Puerto Rico (not sure what she’s implying there, exactly, but you can decide for yourselves on that one).

    Anyway, I talked to Del. Keam a few minutes ago, and he was still very angry about Favola’s comments, which he says could “potentially damage the years of efforts that minorities have made to fully participate in our democratic process“. Del. Keam told me to feel free to repost what he wrote on Facebook here on Blue Virginia. (note: bolding added by me for emphasis)

    Hey Dewita, thank you for sharing this article. I saw the headline on Lowell Feld’s post the other day so I skimmed it quickly then, but I just re-read it carefully based on you pointing out the potential racial issue.

    If this conversation happened the way Lowell reported it (I’ve known Lowell for many years and I have absolutely no reason to doubt his integrity or accuracy) I have to agree with you that this is indeed troubling.

    I can’t think of any justifiable reason why anyone — particularly a Democratic officeholder — would say such things about an ethnic minority candidate: that a Latino candidate has no base in a district because there aren’t many Latinos there, or that there’s something wrong with accepting donations from family and friends who live in Puerto Rico.

    Ignoring for a moment the fact that there are plenty of Hispanic American (and other minority) voters in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudon, this allegation is simply offensive on its face. How can anyone in the year 2011 assume that an ethnic candidate cannot be elected without the support of fellow minorities?

    Don’t we have Barack Obama in the White House? And Governors Gary Locke, Deval Patrick, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, etc, etc.

    Closer to home, didn’t we elect the first African American Governor two decades ago? Today, don’t we have Charniele Herring, Luke Torian and Onzlee Ware serving in the VA House of Delegates who were elected from non-minority-majority districts?

    Oh, and I forgot. I don’t believe that my district includes a whole lot of voters who look like me either… But if I had to rely solely on the Asian American “base” to support me, I guess I wouldn’t be in Richmond today.

    I’m upset enough about this ridiculous only-minorities-vote-for-m​inorities mentality that I won’t bother to say much about the “money from Latino friends and family” point that Lowell also mentioned.

    As an Asian American grassroots activist, I have spent my entire career urging minorities to participate in every level of civic and political process that they are entitled to, including contributing financially to worthy minority candidates even if they don’t live in the district.

    Non-minority candidates raise money from all sorts of donors from all across the country yet it’s rarely noticed unless some ethical or conflict issue is alleged about the money. So why does it matter when a qualified minority candidate receives support from people who are proud to support someone who may look like them? In the end, isn’t politics about people associating themselves with other people with whom they identify to achieve a common goal together?

    Frankly, I’d even suggest that someone who doesn’t even live in VA will likely have little or no interest in any legislation that a VA Senator may be voting on in Richmond so their motivation to give may be just their sincere desire to see the candidate succeed. That was certainly the case for many of my friends and family members who sent me donations from across the country when I first ran.

    Yet, to insinuate that this is somehow inappropriate or shady is not only dead wrong, but it could potentially damage the years of efforts that minorities have made to fully participate in our democratic process and to promote diversity in our government.

    Attacking a candidate’s ethnic, racial, or other traits — including gender — is simply wrong and there’s no place in our political process for that. It is particularly hurtful when such allegations surface in a Democratic Party, the Party I joined because of its efforts to open the doors wide for all of us.