NEW YORK — The 2016 election has roused the "sleeping giant" of Latino voters across the country, according to city politicians.
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is on the ballot himself for outgoing Rep. Charles Rangel's seat in Congress, said Latino voters were letting politicians know how important it would be going forward to address their concerns.
"This is an historic day for the Latino vote, which has already manifested in states like Florida and Nevada," he said in Spanish after voting on Tuesday in Inwood.
"The sleeping giant has woken up today to tell the nation that they need to tend to our needs."
Espaillat praised Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's immigration agenda that was inclusive of Latinos, but cautioned against candidates who would not support immigration reform.
"If it's not taken seriously, the candidates will pay in the future," he said.
John Garcia, spokesman for the New York City-based civil rights advocacy group Latino Justice, only partially credited the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for fueling a surge of Latino turnout.
He also framed it as the natural progression of a growing segment of the American populace.
"The Latino voice is finally getting big enough where it wants to be heard," he said.
"So I think some of it is Trump, but I think it’s also the natural outgrowth of a large population that is becoming much more politically active every day."
South Bronx Councilman Rafael Salamanca, who is also on the ballot for reelection to his council seat but running unopposed, said he had seen similar enthusiasm among the Hispanic community for this election.
He believed Trump's views on immigration played a role in driving turnout as well and said he was excited to see how the race turned out.
"I’m pumped up, man. I’m fired up," he said. "I’m ready for tonight to watch the polling numbers."