By Leslie Berestein
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
June 10, 2008
SAN DIEGO – Presidential candidate Barack Obama will travel to San Diego next month to join opponent John McCain in speaking at the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization.
Both senators are expected to address immigration and other issues pertinent to Latino voters, NCLR President Janet Murguía said during a visit to San Diego promoting the convention. Obama's plans were announced yesterday; McCain had agreed earlier to address the convention.
The fact that both candidates will attend “speaks to a number of things, not only to the importance of the Latino vote, but also to the importance of this region and this state,” Murguía said during a news conference.
Afterward, Murguía said she expects a historic turnout of Latino voters in November, many to counter what they see as anti-immigrant political rhetoric, but also drawn by issues such as the foreclosure crisis and health care.
On the immigration front, both senators have supported changes that immigrant advocates see as favorable. McCain once championed a temporary worker program but has since shied away from that stance.
“Senator McCain will be in an interesting position,” Murguía said yesterday, regarding his appearance at the convention. “I think people will be interested to see where he still is on immigration.”
More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the convention July 12-15 at the San Diego Convention Center. Attendees will range from community leaders and elected officials, including speakers such as San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to members of corporations, philanthropies and academic institutions.
The convention will also feature a two-day “Latino Expo USA” with more than 250 exhibits, a health fair and a home ownership fair. Numerous workshops will be open to the public, including a naturalization clinic July 12 for legal residents wishing to become U.S. citizens, and a July 13 clinic that will offer pro bono legal and financial advice to families facing foreclosure.
Other convention highlights include a town hall meeting on health care reform and an event honoring Latinos in the military.
The National Council of La Raza, which is celebrating its 40th year, last held its convention in San Diego in 2000.