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DemoFest to focus on Hispanic voters in Kansas

Updated: 2013-08-17T16:53:51Z

By Dion Lefler

The Wichita Eagle

CORRECTION: Demofest is taking place at the Holiday Inn at Kellogg and Rock Road. Earlier versions of this story listed an incorrect location.

Taking a long-term view, Kansas Democrats will be focusing heavily on wooing Hispanic voters when they meet Saturday for the annual DemoFest in Wichita.

The keynote speaker for the annual celebration of all things Democratic will be Juan Sepulveda, a native Kansan and now senior adviser on Hispanic affairs for the Democratic National Committee. He also is former director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

Sepulveda will share some of the successes that the Democratic Party has had reaching out to Hispanic voters on the national level and ways to duplicate that success on the state level, said Dakota Loomis, communications director for the state party.

“We want to figure out what it is that matters to them so we can better serve them as elected officials and a party,” Loomis said.

Based on exit polls, the consensus among major news organizations is that more than seven out of 10 Hispanic voters cast their ballots for President Obama in the 2012 election.

Hispanics only make up about 11 percent of Kansas’ population but are the fastest growing population group in the state.

According to data from the U.S. Census, the state population grew by 164,700 from 2000 to 2010. Of those new Kansans, about 99,350 – six out of 10 – are Hispanic.

While the Hispanic population growth hasn’t been as explosive as in southern border states, the trend is clear, Loomis said.

“We’re not talking about 2014,” he said. “We’re looking at 2016, ’18, ’20, down the road.”

In addition to discussing Hispanic voter outreach, DemoFest attendees will get a full day of policy and politicking, including presentations on cuts to schools and universities, tax policy and voter registration issues.

The party is expected to endorse a resolution calling on the state Legislature to repeal voter proof-of-citizenship requirements that are similar to an Arizona law that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional.

Chad Taylor, the district attorney of Shawnee County, will discuss the upcoming special session of the Legislature to rewrite the state’s Hard 50 murder sentencing law, which is similar to a Virginia law that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader – and probable gubernatorial candidate – Paul Davis of Lawrence are scheduled to provide an update from the Legislature.

The DemoFest begins with registration at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn at Kellogg and Rock Road, and events continue throughout the day.

The speeches and party business meetings are free and open to the public, although there is a charge for lunch or the evening banquet. Registration at the door is accepted.

For more information, visit the state Democratic Party website at www.ksdp.org.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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