The Latino Political Network (LPN) held their first kickoff event that took place on Saturday, June 20 at the Simpson College Campus in Ankeny, Iowa. Even though this organization is still very young, they come along way in a short time.
LPN, a non-partisan organization, was founded three months ago by Rob Barron and Omar Padilla. While working with Sen. Tom Harkin Barron and Padilla noticed a deficiency of Latino elected officials in the state of Iowa. That is why they decided there was a need for LPN.
One of LPN’s goals is to educate, empower and connect Latinos through their organization. The founders also want to help Latinos to run for and win campaigns.
“We both have this background and a lot of passion for public service. I think we’re both drawn to it,” Barron said. “It made sense that the two of us would lead an effort like this and the response has been very strong.”
There are thousands of elected offices, including in school boards to city councils and of those many thousand offices there are only a dozen Latino elected officials throughout the state of Iowa, according to both co-founders of LPN. Barron’s and Padilla’s goal is to reach a point where they see improvement on the numbers, which Padilla said isn’t asking for a lot but hasn’t happened. But he has hopes that LPN will do their best and seek change.
“We have a dozen [Latino elected officials] and obviously, just mathematically speaking that is a problem,” Padilla said. “The best way for any community to be represented is by seeing and having some of its own members speak and advocate for the issues in that community.”
The numbers only tell part of a story and what’s behind the number shows that there is a lack of cultural awareness and understanding of how to run for office and why to run for office, and it’s one of the many reasons why the Latino organization was started, Barron explained. If there aren’t people in the community who have run and can’t tell you about their experience was like then it’ll be hard to succeed.
“We know what it takes to run a campaign and we want more Latinos in elected office and we’re going to take that knowledge both from our experience but also from people, outside the Latino community who are experts in this field and bring it straight to those people,” Barron said.
The name of the organization ‘Latino Political Network’ had a lot of thought put into it by the co-founders. They spent several hours looking at options. Both Barron and Padilla knew the word ‘Latino’ had to be included because that was the overall goal for the organization—reaching out to Latinos. But they’re doing it because they want the community to embrace it and feel comfortable and make sure this is their own kind of thing. They don’t want to delude or have people thinking they’re not welcome—anybody can go through this program.
“We don’t mean to make it just for Latinos, this is for Latinos made by Latinos but anybody is welcome to come and be a part of this,” Padilla said.
The word ‘Political’ was the first focus when LPN was first conceived, they wanted to offer classes on how to run and build a campaign and there are other groups in the state that offer classes but not centered for Latinos. They saw the type of model directed to women on educating them on politics and knew it could work for Latinos as well but no one was doing it, Barron said. That’s what inspired the basis of LPN’s kickoff event.
Barron said he feels very confident that no one’s ever done this before and being one of the few dozen elected Latino Officials and no one has contacted him to say ‘did you know there’s another elected Latino somewhere else,’ so Barron and Padilla have to do it themselves. That’s how the word ‘Networking’ became such a key part to the organization name.
“The idea begun with the hope of training Latinos but as we thought about it more, we realized that we can train people and send them out to the state,” Padilla said. “And if that’s all we do we’re really kind of cutting our potential short besides the preparation and training, we can do more, and that more is the networking.”
Both Barron’s and Padilla’s dream is to one day have a pool of participants that they can select from. They would like hold small classes for all potential questions and one-on-one interaction. This isn’t just about the people who want to run this year or next year, this is about people who might want to run in five years, it’s getting them the information right now and getting them plugged in this network. Barron explained that getting the next generation of Latinos into the office in a long run it will benefit the whole Latino community.
“This initiative as we’ve made it clear, it’s a non-partisan thing and that’s something I want to come across,” Padilla said. “We’re inviting Latinos from both parties and in the middle and anywhere to get trained and to run for offices.”