Ferrick Asks: Can Nelson Diaz rely on the Latino vote?

Nelson Diaz at his campaign kickoff. (FILE)
Nelson Diaz at his campaign kickoff. (FILE)

Editor's note: This is the second in a weeklong series of questions The Next Mayor is asking — and answering — of the current candidates' campaigns. Monday: Lynne Abraham's campaign. Today: Nelson Diaz's campaign. Wednesday: Doug Oliver's campaign.

Ferrick Asks: As the only Hispanic in the race, won't Nelson Diaz be able to count on the Latino vote as his base?

As the first Latino to run for mayor, Diaz is likely to get a large percentage of Latino votes.  But, it will still add up to a paltry number.

If over age-65 voters are the mountain in Philadelphia, Latino voters are the molehill.  The latest U.S. Census data tells us there are 128,000 adults of Hispanic origin in Philadelphia.  We don't have direct evidence of how many are registered or vote because they city's official voter database doesn't include race. (Registration forms offer a space for voters to declare their race, but few do.)

But, if you dig down into the census data and look at the divisions in the city where Latinos represent 75 percent or more of the population, this picture emerges: Close to 4 out of 10 Latinos are not registered to vote or, if registered, haven't showed up at the polls in the last five years.

Turnout among those who are active voters is low -- certainly compared to blacks, whites and voters in general. 

In the two wards with the highest concentration of Latino voters (the 19th in Fairhill and the 7th in Juniata Park), turnout has broken over 50 percent only once in recent years -- in 2012 when Barack Obama was running for re-election.  Still, at 50 percent, the Latino vote in that year was 17 points below the citywide average.

Bottom Line: Diaz is going to have to get vast majority of his votes from non-Latinos to break the magic 100,000 mark.

Tom Ferrick Jr., a former Inquirer reporter and columnist and the founder of the news site Metropolis, is writing regularly on the 2015 mayoral race for The Next Mayor.