Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton pose before the start of the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic U.S. presidential candidates debate in Kendall, Florida March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano(reuters_tickers)
By Luciana Lopez
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vowed to nominate Latinos into key cabinet posts in their administrations if elected, according to their answers to a questionnaire organized by the nation’s largest Latino coalition.
The 20-question survey was submitted by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda to all U.S. presidential candidates on Feb. 25, but received responses only from the two Democratic contenders and none from the Republicans, according to the results reviewed by Reuters.
Latinos and African-Americans have emerged as key voting blocs in the Democratic race for the White House nomination so far, and are likely to play a large role in the outcomes of big contests looming in New York and California.
"From special assistants to cabinet members, Latinos will play a key role in helping to shape my policy priorities and be effectively represented in our agencies," former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic front-runner Clinton wrote.
U.S. Senator from Vermont Sanders promised to make his administration "reflect the diverse make-up of the country... I can think of no place more vital for such diversity than in the cabinet and the Senior Executive Service of the President of the United States of America."
President Barack Obama has nominated a number of Latinos to cabinet position during his time in office, two of whom are currently serving: Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.
Both Clinton and Sanders have already promised comprehensive immigration reform, appealing to Hispanic voters ahead of presidential nominating contests in minority-heavy states. Leading Republican hopefuls Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, have promised to tighten up the borders and deport undocumented immigrants.
The responses come as the Democratic contest for the party's presidential nomination is poised to roll into a slate of diverse states - including New York later this month and minority-heavy California in June.
The NHLA will use the questionnaires to guide voter engagement ahead of the November election, and to hold the winner to promises made during the campaign, said Hector Sanchez, the chairman of the NHLA.
"This is not just a piece of paper that we’re going to put out there," Sanchez said. "If they want the Latino vote, they must engage with us."
(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Marguerita Choy)