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Election 2020: Carlos Cardona

We are days away from Election Day, but Granite Staters are voting – and in record numbers.

“They’re already actively casting ballots. With one week to go, we have about 200,000 ballots already cast, which is roughly 20% of those that are going to vote,” says political analyst Scott Spradling of The Spradling Group.

That’s more than double the highest number of early voters in past years.

One candidate enthusiastically following early voting is Carlos Cardona, a Democrat running for election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives to represent Belknap 3.

The unlikely candidate says he’s encountered political biases for being gay, Hispanic, and young. Cardona is nationally-known for his advocacy work, despite having never held office – he’s hoping that New Hampshire voters are ready to get behind him.

Cardona with then presidential candidate Julian Castro, 2018

Cardona first ran for office in 2010 but lost in his bid for New Hampshire House of Representatives in Merrimack County.

New Hampshire residents are 93.1% white, compared to 76.3% of the population nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau from 2019.

The Census finds that Hispanics – Latinos reached a record 60.6 million in 2019, up 930,000 over the previous year and up from 50.7 million in 2010. Still, population growth among this group has slowed as the annual number of births to Hispanic, Latino women have declined and immigration has decreased.

Research finds states with the fastest Hispanic, Latino population growth tend to have a relatively small number of them. New Hampshire (48% increase from 2010) had a Hispanic, Latino population of less than 80,000 in 2019.

Only 6% of New Hampshire elected representatives are minorities (as of 2016), and 29% are female (as of 2015)

Cardona stressed the importance of representation in an interview with the Concord Monitor but insists that diversity alone isn’t enough. He is worried that even though candidates look diverse, their policies don’t always reflect the change that voters are seeking.

“There’s two things that I believe about politics. There is inclusivity, which is how diverse you are, and then there’s policy. I don’t think that the mindset of politicians has changed, what has changed is what politicians look like,” he said. “I am not aiming to just have diversity, but to have policy reflect that. We need to be careful when we say things like ‘any Hispanic will do’ or ‘any woman will do’ or ‘any functioning adult will do.’ ”

Cardona is a Puerto Rican immigrant who works a day job at J.C. Swain Enterprise, a telemarketing firm. He’s raising a daughter with his husband, John Swain, and is a fierce political advocate for LGBTQ and minority rights.

Cardona said that New Hampshire overall still needs to make progress in its treatment of women and Latino residents. More than once he’s been asked whether he’s a citizen. He is, as are all Puerto Ricans.

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