Each presidential election, going back for nearly 40 years, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has stayed silent. Its leaders have kept their mouths closed when it comes to endorsing a candidate.
But this election is different. For the first time, the organization representing roughly 4.1 million Hispanic-owned businesses –and generating $661 billion in annual economic activity – is backing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says they had the opportunity to sit down with each candidate, except Donald Trump.
“Forty-eight hours before we were to sit down with Donald Trump, he canceled,” Palomarez says, “despite the fact that he insisted on being part of the lineup of these presidential candidate Q&A series that we had.”
Palomarez says for each meeting, the moderator would ask 10 questions of the chamber’s choice.
“They’ll be fair questions,” he says. “We’re not going to debate you. We’re not going to argue. We’re simply going to give you an opportunity to unpack your policies and explain to my constituency as business owners and job creators why you think you are a better option for American small businesses.”
But Trump’s camp wanted to pre-read the questions, do two 10-minute beginning and ending speeches and pre-approve a list of journalists who would be in attendance.
Palomarez says that despite Trump and his family’s touting of his business and job creation credentials, he wasn’t their ideal candidate for three main reasons.
“Despite his claims around being a prolific business leader, the congressional budget office found that Donald Trump’s policies, his platform, would land our nation in a situation … where those policies would increase the national debt,” he says. “This is also a man who has denounced the country of Mexico – obviously unaware of the fact that as we stand today Mexico is the second-largest trading partner to the United States.”
There’s also his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Palomarez says.
“It’s important to recognize that 98 percent of the companies in this country that export are actually small companies,” he says.
The chamber’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton is half endorsing her and half rejecting Trump, Palomarez says. The chamber doesn’t expect to agree 100 percent with Clinton’s business decisions, as with any candidate they’d choose to endorse.
“What we do know about Hillary Clinton is in sharp contrast to Donald Trump,” Palomarez says. “Throughout her campaign Hillary Clinton and her team have reached out to our association to ensure that we are in close contact, to ensure that they’re hearing from us what the concerns of the American small businesses are.”
Palomarez says Clinton’s team has ensured that they’ve included the chamber in town halls, in private meetings and at round-tables. Her team has reiterated that they want to hear directly from small businesses in the marketplace. It also helps that Clinton grew up with a small business background, Palomarez says.
“When she sat with us unaided, she said to me and to the audience – which by the included a huge amount of media – that she wanted to be America’s first small-business president,” Palomarez says. “This is an individual that understands the challenges of the small business community, recognizes the critical natures of our businesses, recognizes that two-thirds of all new jobs in this country are actually created by the small businesses, and understands it because she grew up in small business.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.