KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Democrats and Republicans know one block of voters is a must if they want to win this political season. Strategists believe Latinos could decide the election this year.
Both parties are courting Hispanic voters, and have highlighted a number of up-and-coming Latino leaders at their conventions.
Hispanics are the fastest growing population both nationwide and in the metro area.
Hispanics make up the fastest growing community in the last ten years in Kansas City and all of Kansas and Missouri.
The Hispanic community's sheer size is just one of the reasons why both parties need their votes to win this year.
"Both parties recognize if they're going to win the White House they'll need the Latino vote," explained Carlos Gomez of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
While the chamber noted many Latinos typically vote the Democrat ticket, Hispanics are not just a one-party or one-issue voting block anymore.
Immigration still tops the list of issues among many Hispanics, Gomez explained, but the community is filled with swing voters this year who are waiting to hear who can also get them back to work.
Kansas City Hispanics, many in the construction and hospitality industries, still face a 17 percent unemployment rate.
"We're not a one issue community. Hispanics are pro-life, pro-business, pro-military,” noted Gomez. “Hispanics have one of the highest unemployment rates."
Gus Juarez, a small business owner, said those layoffs have led to fewer customers for him. He explained his customers have drifted away in recent years and the costs of employee healthcare worry him. So, with almost two moths before the election, Juarez is still on the fence.
“I'm waiting to the last minute," said Juarez.
The chamber explained different issues separate Hispanic voters like Juarez and Paul Rojas, a veteran.
"We want a chance, not hand out, a fair chance to compete at a level playing field, " said Rojas.
Chamber officials noted while many in the community feel few promises have been kept by Democrats, dreams have been derailed by Republicans.
Hispanics who were polled said they will vote for President Barack Obama by more than a two to one margin. However, that does not mean they are committed Democrats.
Before voting for Obama, the majority of Hispanics voted to put George W. Bush in office both terms.
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