<div class="post-info"><small class="post-date" id="day_14">June 14, 2007, 7:46 pm</small>
<h2 class="post-title"><a title="Permanent Link: English Only at Spanish Debate" href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/english-only-at-spanish-debate/" rel="bookmark"><font color="#810081">English Only at Spanish Debate
<p class="post-author">By <span><a title="Posts by Sarah Wheaton" href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/author/swheaton/">Sarah Wheaton</a></span></p></div>
<p>Univision, the Spanish-language television network, just clarified how its Sept. 9 Spanish-language presidential debate will go down, and the campaigns of the two Spanish-speaking candidates are not pleased — and now one is threatening not to attend. "It has come to our attention that there has been some confusion over whether our debate will be conducted in Spanish or English," wrote Sylvia Rosabal, vice president of Univision's news division, in a letter sent to the campaigns today. Citing a desire to "provide a level playing field for all candidates," Ms. Rosabal said that all candidates would be expected to respond to questions in English, "regardless of their proficiency in the Spanish-language." Candidates will hear the questions translated into English as they are read to the audience in Spanish, and their responses will be simultaneously translated into Spanish.
<p>The announcement prompted frustration from the campaigns of Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, both Democrats who are fluent Spanish speakers. "Surely all candidates would agree that it can only benefit this important, fast-growing community to have presidential contenders be able to speak directly to them in English or Spanish," said Christy Setzer, a spokeswoman for the Dodd campaign.
<p>Well, Mr. Richardson, for one, agrees, and took it one step further. From his spokesman, Pahl Shipley:</p>
<p>This is a disservice to Univision's viewers. It is a Spanish-language network and candidates who speak Spanish should not be penalized because other candidates do not. The governor would like to directly address Spanish-speaking Americans in their language as he often does. This new wrinkle detracts from the original intent of this important debate. The governor is deeply disappointed and may not attend.
<p>Mr. Shipley did not offer a time frame for making a final decision. In response to Mr. Richardson's threat, a spokeswoman for Univision reiterated that it stands by the format and that it was a fair way to conduct the debate. Mr. Dodd learned Spanish while in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps, and Mr. Richardson grew up in Mexico City. Brooke Morganstein, a spokeswoman for Univision, said this is "not a change in the original format." She continued, "This is just something that we felt needed to be clarified." The original invitation, dated June 2, states, "Questions will be asked in Spanish and simultaneously translated into English for all candidates. Responses to questions will be simultaneously translated into Spanish for Univision's viewers and listeners." It did not specifically address whether candidates could choose to answer in Spanish.
<p>Representative Dennis J. Kucinich and Mike Gravel have also said they plan to attend. Other campaigns have said they are still considering the invitation, though some Democrats would have to make an exception to their pledges to only participate in debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. Maria Elena Salinas, who will moderate the debate with her co-anchor at Noticiero Univision Jorge Ramos, rejected the idea that the viewers would be better served by hearing Spanish-speaking candidates directly. "I think the important thing is that our viewers are going to be listening, whether it's through us or through the translators," and she added that candidates' points of view would be "very clear."
<p>To win over Hispanics, she said, candidates should "speak their language," not in the literal sense, but rather by demonstrating that they understand what Hispanics care about and how those issues affect that community specifically. "Hispanics are interested in and care about a lot of the same topics that mainstream America cares about,"—not just immigration, said Ms. Salinas. Education, Iraq, jobs, health care and crime are big issues among Hispanics, as is American foreign policy with regard to Latin American countries. She added that terrorism is a particularly important issue for some Hispanics because many came to America not just for economic reasons, but also "for political reasons, running away from political turmoil in their country."
<p>Historically, the Hispanic vote has been more Democratic," Ms. Salinas noted. But given President Bush's popularity with Hispanics, their vote "was up for grabs in 2004 and it's going to be up for grabs in 2008." With that competition in mind, The Times's Michael Falcone's dispatch is especially relevant:
<p>The major Democratic presidential candidates have agreed to participate in a forum on June 30 sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. All of the Republican candidates who were invited to attend declined.
<p>Marcelo Gaete, N.A.L.E.O.'s director of programs, said he was "baffled" that the Republicans turned down an opportunity to interact with prominent Hispanic elected officials. Mr. Gaete also noted that the event is being held in Florida, a state that recently moved up its primary by several weeks, making it one of the earliest in the country.
<p>Spokespeople for several of the Republican candidates said that busy campaign schedules would not permit them to attend.</p></blockquote></div><a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/english-only-at-spanish-debate/">
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