POLITICS

Latino Voters To Play Pivotal Role In Key Elections Across The Country

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, left, listens along with New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie, right, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greets supporters during a campaign stop in Hillside, N.J., Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Christie will face Democratic candidate, Barbara Buono in an election Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, left, listens along with New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie, right, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greets supporters during a campaign stop in Hillside, N.J., Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Christie will face Democratic candidate, Barbara Buono in an election Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)  (AP2013)

Some of the most important races Tuesday are unfolding in cities and states where Latinos form a significant part of the population, and their turnout could be pivotal.

Observers say a strong showing among Latinos could impress the national GOP, which set out this year to repair its strained relationship with the community after last year’s presidential race, when many of its candidates came across as hard-line on immigration and other issues critical to many Latinos.

NEW YORK

In New York, Democrat Bill De Blasio is counting on Latinos to put him in the mayor’s office, according to published reports. Though he is considered the clear front-runner in his race against Joe Lhota, he has been courting Latinos, who number 2.4 million in the city.

“The Latino community is so big in the city that even with all these obstacles that exclude Latinos from the electorate, Latinos represent a big bloc of voters,” Latintimes.com quoted Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, as saying.

Election Day is the beginning of New York City's farewell to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who helped define the city since 2001. Voters now have a choice between two different visions for the future.

Lhota, a former aide to Rudy Giuliani, largely wants to continue the policies of Bloomberg and his former boss. De Blasio, the public advocate, wants a break from the Bloomberg years and is calling for improved community-police relations and a tax increase on the rich.

De Blasio is up nearly 40 points in the polls and is poised to be the first Democrat elected mayor since 1989.

NEW JERSEY

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie went to several Latino communities on Monday, accompanied by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the country’s first Latina governor. Christie closed his campaigning Monday night in a Democratic stronghold – Union City, long an immigrant gateway where Latinos are 85 percent of the population.

Christie said to the crowd in a 10-minute speech: “Union City, you have some of the most amazing diversity in the entire state. You care about each other. You are an inspiration to me as governor, and I hope to inspire you for your votes tomorrow.”

New Jersey is home to 1.6 million Hispanics, they are almost 20 percent of the state population, the eighth largest Latino share in the nation. About 680,000 of the state’s Latinos are eligible to vote.

Christie is said to be hoping to do well among Hispanic voters so that the national Republican Party sees him as a strong contender for the 2016 presidential race.

Though Christie’s challenger, Democrat Barbara Buono, has expressed views more in line with many Latino voters, polls have showed that many of the state’s residents know very little about her.

VIRGINIA

In Virginia, home to more than 200,000 registered Latino voters, gubernatorial Terry McCauliffe has won the support of many Latinos with his embrace of legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors to attend college at in-state tuition rates and obtain a path to legal status. For added measure, McCauliffe brought in prominent Latinos such as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who is seen as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

His challenger, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, enlisted the star power of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who also is seen as White House material.

Obama painted Cuccinelli as beholden to an extreme tea party ideology that, according to the president, shut down the government and hurt Virginians.

Obama said McAuliffe knows how to push through obstacles and cares deeply about equality. The president urged McAuliffe's backers not to get complacent at the end of the race.

Cuccinelli is telling his supporters that Obama's visit highlights McAuliffe's support for the president’s unpopular health care law.

BOSTON

In Boston, some 42,000 Latinos are eligible to vote, but only half of the 20,000 who are registered tend to show up.

Boston’s mayoral candidates Martin J. Walsh and John R. Connolly are vying to win the first open mayoral race in a generation. News outlets were reporting that by mid-afternoon, about 21 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots.

MIAMI

In Miami, Mayor Tomas Regalado seeks a second term against challengers Williams A. Armbrister, Tom Baumann and Jeff Benjamin. Regalado was the front-runner leading to Election Day.

In Miami Beach, Michael Gongora, Raphael Herman, Philip Levine and Steve Berke are all vying for mayor.

Pew Hispanic Center reported that Miami-Dade County has Florida’s largest concentration of Latino voters. Latinos account for 52 percent of the eligible voters in the
county.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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