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Latino Loop: Defending Menendez, Gallegos Re-Run, Honoring Chavez

Image: Robert Menendez

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, addresses a gathering Monday, March 23, 2015, in Garwood, N.J. Menendez listened to questions about the possible filing of corruption charges against him. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) AP

WHO STANDS WITH BOB? -- The Latino ranks came to the defense of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., when he was indicted on corruption charges this week. But they did so in a guarded way. Perhaps the strongest backing came from Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza. In the Huffington Post's Latino Voices, she wrote that “Hispanic Americans have every reason to give the senator the benefit of the doubt." But NCLR did not blast a press release noting the support. New Jersey Democrats sent out a release with a collection of supportive comments, including a statement from the League of United Latin American Citizens, but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus declined comment to NBC News. Menendez’s Hispanic media spokesman posted support from Reps. Alberto Sires, D-N.J. and Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., on Twitter under #IStandWithBob. The related account, @IStandWithBob, drew some other postings from Latinos in Washington. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., was one of the few who sent out his own news release in which he said Menendez was a “touchstone for all matters related to Latinos in this country.” This posting from Democratic strategist, and Larry Gonzalez asked a key question in such cases of politicians with legal troubles.

PETE WANTS A REPEAT -- Former Texas Rep. Pete Gallego made official what many Democrats were anticipating - that he would try to win back the House seat that he lost to Republican Will Hurd in the 2012 elections. "Yes, I am going to run again and I am going to win #TX23." Gallego served one term as the congressman from the vast district that hugs the Texas-Mexico border, sweeping from San Antonio to El Paso and taking in a large swath of far West Texas. The majority Hispanic district is a key part of Texas' continuing redistricing dispute. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the redrawing of its boundaries by Republicans in 2003, ruling the new boundaries violated the Voting Rights Act because the new district weakened the rights of Hispanic voters to elect their candidate of choice. The Legislature redrew the lines in 2011 (following the 2010 Census), but that also ran into trouble in the courts for swapping out Hispanic voting neighborhoods for non-Hispanic voting neighborhoods. The Legislature has since adopted a court-ordered map, that continues to draw criticism from some.

THE EVANGELICAL VOTE -- Evangelicals already have been given a forum in the 2016 GOP primary by Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his presidential run at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. But that forum will widen to include Latino evangelicals when potential candidates Jeb Bush, the brother and son of former presidents, and Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP primary candidate, make an appearance at the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference in Houston at the end of this month. Bush is keynote speaker. Other invitations have gone out as well. As NBC News reported this week, immigration reform has significant support among evangelicals and even more among Latino evangelicals. Public Religion Research Institute's 2014 survey shows support for immigration reform with a path to citizenship of 54 percent among white evangelicals and 64 percent among Hispanic Protestants. Separately, Sen. Ted Cruz is negotiating with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to participate in a public forum with the chamber's president. This comes after Cruz didn't respond to an invitation to be at the chamber's legislative summit in Washington last week. Other potential candidates also didn't show but cited conflicts or have plans to participate in other chamber events.

THE SHOWDOWNS -- Next Tuesday, Chicago voters will decide whether to return Rahm Emanuel as mayor or give Jesus "Chuy" Garcia a chance to lead the city as the city's first Latino mayor. But don't get too comfortable, once that's done, next up will be the May 9 elections in Dallas, where Dallas attorney Marcos Ronquillo is trying to unseat the incumbent Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and then the San Antonio mayoral race, featuring three Latino candidates. Later next month, attorney Nelson Diaz will be in the mix of the multi-candidate race for Philadelphia mayor.

CESAR CHAVEZ IN DC -- The Department of Agriculture paid tribute to civil rights and farmworker rights hero Cesar Chavez on his birthday March 31, naming a courtyard at the agency's headquarters after him. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was joined by one of Chavez's granddaughters, Christine Chavez-Gonzalez, who serves as farmworker coordinator at the agency. Today, some 70 percent of farm workers are immigrants who do not have legal status in the U.S.