Yesterday a controversial decision was met when the Utah Democratic Party voted out its first Latino outreach director, Melodia Gutierrez who worked as the party’s Latino outreach director over the past year. The decision to remove Gutierrez has been met with some opposition and questions as to why she was removed.
According to Gutierrez her removal is simply based upon the Utah’s Democratic Party’s possible ill-feelinsg towards her being a “woman of color” and that those who opted to see her resigned have lost the party’s own vision of diversity and inclusiveness.
“It was a complete blind-side, forced resignation. I’m the second woman of color they let go unceremoniously,” Gutierrez said, “There were only two women of color in office.”
The Utah Democratic Party created the Latino outreach program a year ago in order to get Latinos involved in politics. The outreach program includes a voter registration drive with an emphasis around the push for immigration reform. The move led to the creation of the party’s first ads on Spanish TV. So far under Gutierrez’s she has been succeeding.
Gutierrezis the first ever Latino woman to have been given the job as Latino outreach director, a job that tasked Gutierrez with the responsibility of connecting Latinos to the world of politics. The party’s ads appearing on Spanish television was due in part to Gutierrez’s commitment to the job which she described as her dream job.
“I feel so betrayed. I really cared about these people. I’m shocked,” Gutierrez said, “They don’t practice what they preach.”
According to Gutierrez the party’s executive director, Matt Lyon told her that the work she was doing did not match the vision held by members of the Utah Democratic Party. When Gutierrez tried to fight for her job claiming to want an opportunity to change and match their vision she said Lyon felt it was best the two part ways.
The issue about Gutierrez’s removal has attracted some questions, was the removal due to Gutierrezbackground, lack of job performance, or some personnel discrepancies?
Regarding Gutierrez’s claim that she was removed because of her racial background, Lyon addressed the issue stating the other “woman of color” Gutierrez was referring to was a black woman who was not let go but left herself because the position did not pay as much as she sought.
“We are going to rehire the position of Latino outreach director,” Lyon added. “It’s an important role.”
Gutierrez said that she was informed in an email by Lyon asking her to make a statement stating she was leaving her position due to personal and family reasons. Instead, Gutierrez wrote her own letter of resignation to Utah Democratic Party leaders stating her resignation was requested by Lyon and making her claims known.
According to Utah State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis the removal of Gutierrez was not due to her claims but due to a personnel decision and felt the decision was best for the party’s future. While Dabakis has not gone into full details he did explain it would be “tacky” to say more regarding the personnel issues involving relationships between employers and employees.
Upon receiving Gutierrez’s letter, Salt Lake County Hispanic Caucus Chairman Nate Salazar released the letter to the media upset by the by Gutierrez’s removal.
“I wasn’t contacted about this decision. Melodia has a really great reputation in our community,” Salazar said. “So it’s disheartening. … I feel like it’s a lack of democratic process.”
The removal of Gutierrez also upsets Salazar because he, like others who support the program, felt the outreach position was created with the “idea that community caucuses and leaders from the Latino community would help out with the evaluation process.”
House Minority Assistant Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D-Salt Lake City) could not speak about Gutierrez’s resignation but in lieu of the situation said the party still continues to dedicate themselves to reaching out to Latinos to ensure their participation.
Although she feels the Democratic Party of her state may have lost their way, Gutierrez still thinks the party “ in large shares the values of the Latino community. We need to grow from this situation and take it as a challenge to make the party better and more inclusive.”
Whether Gutierrez was removed for personnel or personal reasons, that will be determined, but there is an interesting question regarding her removal and the Utah Democratic Party’s intention.
There is currently no one sitting in the Latino outreach director’s seat, but according to Lyon the position will hopefully be filled in the near future.
While the party stated it is in the best interest to move on from the one individual who has garnered a connection with Utah Latinos to establish a deeper connection, it leaves a feeling of disbelief. Recently, studies have been released showing that the Republican Party can sway some Latinos into voting for the party’s candidate if said candidate holds some acceptable ideology towards immigration reform
The removal of Gutierrez now could merely be seen as an attempt to prepare for possible loss in Latino votes if the Republican Party, a move to place someone who can not only broaden the Latino rapport but also branch out and persuade some other groups in the state. Will there be other If this is so, and only if, will we see other state Democratic Party try to open its horizon to be inclusive to others than Latinos.
Only time will tell.