Candidates gave stump speeches, some in Spanish others in English, as margaritas were served and a mariachi band performed.
The event organizer was Marietta attorney Adriana Helenek, a native of Mexico whose son attends the third grade at the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics. Residents may recognize Helenek’s husband, Michael Helenek, who served on the City of Marietta’s Citizens Parks Committee.
Adriana Helenek said she wanted to hold the event because, “We consider it very important to get together as the Hispanic commu-nity to sponsor people who show respect for civil rights and human rights and who consider us as equal in the community. We really want to stop Republicans who make these laws that are against human rights. They hate immigrants.”
Helenek said perhaps the animosity she believes Republicans have for her community comes from a failure to travel.
“I think most of the time it’s ignorance because they never travel,” she said. “They don’t want to speak another language. They think everything needs to be the same as them, and I think they’re wrong.”
Helenek said she is particularly outraged by the fact that so many Republicans are religious.
“Something that really, really makes me mad is they are part of the churches, and they think they are very religious, and I cannot understand a person who is in any religion to be hateful with anyone else, so if someone is homosexual, because someone is immigrant, you know, because someone has a different colored skin, I really don’t understand. I think it’s ignorance. I think they need to travel. I think they need to read more, they need to be exposed to different cultures, and they need to think that diversity is what makes this country strong.”
Martha and Sam Darden of west Cobb, who are grandparents of six, do not speak Spanish and didn’t understand some of the speeches.
But Martha Darden, a retired Marietta Middle School science teacher, said she enjoyed it all the same.
“You can feel the energy and that’s wonderful,” she said.
Darden said she came out primarily to show support for state Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna), who is being challenged by Republican Hunter Hill of Smyrna.
Darden said she thought County Sheriff Neil Warren’s 287(g) program was “awful.”
She also expressed her disapproval of immigration reformer D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society.
“I think he’s Nazism. I think he’s over the top,” she said.
Democratic candidate Jeff Kazanow, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell), warned the crowd that “(Price is) very anti-immigration. He stands directly against the Dream Act.”
Kazanow called on the crowd to vote.
“We can take the seat back and make it blue, and we can make the district truly representative of the people who live there instead of just the very few up in northern Fulton and east Cobb who think they run the district,” he said.
Kazanow said the difference between him and Price is that he is willing to compromise.
“I don’t believe that ‘no’ is the only word in the vocabulary that you need to know, that there is a way to get to yes, and Tom’s long since lost that way,” he said.
Democrat Patrick Thompson is challenging U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta).
“If my opponent Phil Gingrey was here, he would have done a card check already,” Thompson told the crowd.
Thompson said he pledges allegiance to two things, the U.S. Flag and the people of the district.
“Phil Gingrey pledges to Michele Bachmann, to Grover Norquist, to whatever lobby organization is paying his bills,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t vote with the people. He’s got a zero from organizations like MiddleClass.org. He never votes for the middle class and working people. He votes for the people that put him in power.”
The choice is simple, Thompson said.
“This race is all about the middle class versus the Middle Ages. If you believe in taking power and money and putting it at the top, then Phil’s your guy,” Thompson said. “If you believe in the middle class and the working people of this country and turning that engine on that’s me.”
State Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin (D-Duluth) delivered his talk in Spanish before introducing Stoner in English.
“Guys, this is a critical, important race, not just for me, but for Sen. Doug Stoner,” Marin said. “We need to bring him back. Right now the line to have the supermajority in the Senate lies on one race, one race alone, and it’s his race.”
Stoner spoke of how he turns to Marin and to his former chief of staff, Carlos Vilela, for guidance in helping to address the needs of the Hispanic community.
“You all are a growing force in this state as a community,” Stoner said. “You are going to be a decisive force in this state now and in the future in races. Your numbers in close races like Pedro’s or mine can determine the outcome.”
Stoner also addressed the point that if Hill wins, Republicans in the senate will have enough votes to pass a constitutional amend-ment.
“As Pedro explains, it’s the ability to amend the state constitution without having to talk to anyone else on the other side,” Stoner said. “And something that Pedro and I have known for years is when you give somebody absolute power, absolute power, that’s when things get really bad.”
Cobb Board of Education member Alison Bartlett, a Democrat, who is being challenged by Republican Brad Wheeler, called on the audience to oppose the constitutional amendment for charter schools.
“This is about segregation,” Bartlett said. “This is about not educating Cobb people, and I have real issues with that because educa-tion is my passion.”
Campbell High School graduate Jessica Belen Rodriguez, 19, of Smyrna, a student at Oglethorpe University, shared how her par-ents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico as a child without the required legal papers. She is calling on voters to reelect Obama, citing the deferred action status Obama granted to people like her.
“What we have now is we’re no longer illegal,” she said. “We actually have a permit where we can work here legally and with em-ployment we can get Social Security and we can get a driver’s license, but we’re still not U.S. citizens, we can’t apply to state schools. We can only go to private schools or community colleges.”
Still, Obama is committed to supporting the “Dreamers,” she said.
“In 2015 I’ll graduate, so if Mitt Romney comes in, he says he doesn’t support deferred action, so I would be illegal again, and I would have to leave the country, and I wouldn’t get to go to medical school here, so it’s only if Obama gets reelected that I will be able to hopefully get reissued that authorization for employment, and I will be able to continue my studies here,” she said.
Cobb Democratic Party Chair Melissa Pike praised Adriana Helenek for organizing the event.
“Adriana has heeded the call that we sent out to try and get more diversity in our party which frankly, I’m just going to say it, is very pale and very senior,” Pike said. “If we look just at demographics in this state and the people who generally vote or would vote Democratic in general elections, if they voted in every single election this state would be blue, would have been blue, never would have turned red.”
The Journal asked D.A. King, who was not in attendance, what he thought about the comments.
“I find it sadly amusing that the crazy, ignorant, radical, mindless Left associates enforcement of immigration laws with Hitler or Nazism, and I would ask them to look into themselves for who wears the Brown Shirts,” King said. “The one thing these air heads can never allow to be mentioned is that the United States of America brings in more legal immigration at more than 1 million a year. Most of that comes from Mexico, and the total immigration comes from countries that we all regard as minorities. The mindless, screeching objections to the enforcement of the law serves only to reflect upon the mutual outrage that we even have borders and immigration law from the far, radical, crazy Left that will be the end of this country were they allowed to continue to exist.”
Moreover, King went on to say, “I find it curious and dangerous that I don’t hear any conversation from the Georgia Delegation on the crime of illegal immigration lately.”