Richardson, Dodd to Debate in Spanish

Democratic presidential hopefuls Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd have agreed to participate in a candidate debate in September that’s to be conducted in Spanish.

Univision Communications Inc., the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster, has invited candidates to a debate planned Sept. 9 at the University of Miami.

“Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of our population and this is a unique chance for all of the candidates to hear and address the concerns and priorities of this important constituency,” Richardson said in a statement Wednesday.

Richardson, who is fluent in Spanish, is the nation’s only Hispanic governor. He was born in California, but spent his early childhood in Mexico City.

Dodd, a senator from Connecticut, also is fluent in Spanish. He lived in the Dominican Republic while serving in the Peace Corps.

“The next president needs to be someone who can speak to this important segment of our population, and those within our same hemisphere, on issues from immigration to education to foreign affairs,” said Dodd.

Univision says the presidential debate would be the first conducted in Spanish. Simultaneous translation is to be provided to candidates and viewers.

Univision’s sale to a private investor group received final federal regulatory approval earlier this year. The company has invited Republican presidential candidates to a debate — also in Spanish — on Sept. 16.

The former chairman and chief executive officer of Univision, A. Jerrold Perenchio, a California Republican, was a major political donor to Richardson’s gubernatorial campaigns in 2002 and 2006.

Richardson, at the request of Perenchio, wrote a letter of support in 2003 for a merger of Univision and another Spanish-language broadcasting company. The letter appeared in newspapers to counter opposition to the merger from some congressional Democrats. Richardson at the time described Perenchio as a “longtime friend” and said the campaign contributions played no role in his decision to support the media company merger.

Perenchio and one of his companies contributed about $167,000 to Richardson’s 2002 campaign

Richardson’s 2006 re-election campaign received about $156,000 from Perenchio, his wife and their son. The campaign also received $50,000 from the Jerry Perenchio Living Trust because Univision was a sponsor of the governor’s inauguration in January.