Commentary: ‘First Latino Townhall’ was a bait-and-switch event

Josie Valdez.

Last week there was an event billed as The First Latino Townhall. I watched the meeting via a Facebook Live from a feed provided by Marco Munoz. The event was well attended and the speakers were enthusiastic and gave heartfelt remarks.

I have been involved in the Latino community for over 40 years and know there have been many political events for the Latino community over the years. There have been several Latino Days at the Legislature where hundreds attended. There have been conferences focused on teaching Latinos about how a bill is passed. There have been seminars featuring presentations from elected Latino legislators discussing their role in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. So, the act that this event was billed as “The First” was intriguing.

My concern is the lack of transparency by which this event was marketed to attract attendance. As I watched the proceedings, it became clear that this was a Republican town hall. However, the event was not marketed as a partisan event. There was no messaging letting potential attendees know that only Republican speakers were invited to participate. There was no indication that the three Latino legislators, Sen. Luz Escamilla, and Reps. Mark Archuleta Wheatley and Angela Romero, were not participating. There was no indication that only Republican elected officials were invited to speak. There was no indication that topics of concern to Republicans were to be addressed. While speakers included top Utah politicians, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, President of the Senate Stuart Adams and other Republican legislators and a Republican mayor or two, there were no Democrat legislators or Democrat office holders invited to speak.

There is nothing wrong with the Republican Party reaching out to the Latino community. There is nothing wrong with Utah political leaders hosting an event so the Latino community can see and meet their leaders. But there is something wrong with misleading the Latino community by hiding the fact that this was, indeed, a Republican sponsored event. This was made clear in a tweet issued by Rob Anderson, chair of the Utah Republican Party, who when the event was over and comments were being made about how Latino legislators being left out of the process, Rob tweeted that this was a “Utah GOP sponsored event.”

Basically, this was a “bait and switch” event. While much was said by the presenters about how they love the Latino community and how they encouraged the Latino community to get involved in the political process, they themselves failed to involve their own fellow Latino politicians in the process. Could it be because all three Latino legislators are Democrats?

Josie Valdez is a former Vice Chair of the Utah State Democratic Party. She lives in Murray.