Meet the Delegates: David Ochoa

By Julianne Hing Aug 27, 2008

Meet David Ochoa, New York delegate from the 1st Congressional District, Suffolk County ColorLines: Have you always been an Obama supporter? David Ochoa: Yes I have. Going on 14 months now I’ve been an Obama supporter. I’m from the first congressional district, which also includes the Hamptons, but it’s a very diverse area. We had five delegate seats and two of the five went to Latinos. New York City has the highest number of Latinos, but after them, Suffolk County has the second largest Latino population in the state, which means there’s a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment, but we have a strong presence there. ColorLines: Have you been involved in organizing the Latino community? Ochoa: I have campaigned for Obama in Colorado and New Mexico. I believe we can carry Colorado, Nueva Mexico. In Colorado we have great people like Federico Pena. We’re targeting the Latino states, Florida too. What we can do is organize people to make fifty calls a night to Latinos around the country, and that’s what we’re doing. ColorLines: What do you think Obama should be doing to mobilize Latinos? Ochoa: It’s all about branding. Everyone know the Clinton name for eight years. There was President Clinton, and then Senator Clinton with the same name. He needs to share who he is. Right now, if you polled n-o-w, 68 to 70% of Latinos polled favor Obama over McCain. And he needs to let Latinos know that he cares about the same issues they care about – Latinos are concerned about a lot of the same mainstream issues: education, energy, war. We’re not a single issue community. We’ve won gold medals, we’re stationed in Iraq. We’re no longer observers. ColorLines: What do you think is going to happen the next time immigration comes around? Ochoa: I’m not hopeful. I’m a realist, and I think we need to hold people accountable, including the Democrats who said they were going to come through last time and never did, Democrats who sat on the fence, hoping the issue would go away. Today, Michelle Obama said that reform is critical to moving forward. We need access, a path to citizenship. ColorLines: What do you make of the notion that with Obama’s presidency we’re beyond race and about to enter a post-racial era? Ochoa: That is complete b.s. People of color make the least, pay the most, and suffer the worst. Let’s not kid ourselves, the people who harvest the crops and clean the bathrooms are people of color. The problems in this country largely are carried by low income people, and another commonality is that they most often are people of color. The anthem of Barack Obama’s presidency is not going to be Kumbayaa. That’s not pragmatic to think that way. But what I think Barack Obama has a capacity for bridge-building, and I’m hopeful about that. But you know, I’m ashamed to say we were late, the Latino community, to come around to Barack Obama. That’s due to racism. This campaign offers us a new possibility, and I know that without the Black vote, there would be no Tony Villaraigosa in LA.