Gary M. Segura is the dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a principal, co-founder, and senior partner at political opinion research firm Latino Decisions. He is the author of several books; forthcoming, with Scott S. Gartner, is Calculated War: The Public and a Theory of Conflict. Prior to joining a Zócalo/UCLA Downtown panel at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles titled, “Will California Pick the Next President?,” Segura sat down in the green room and discussed the issues most important to Latino voters in California, Captain Kirk, and where he can be found on a Friday night.
Who is your favorite president and why?
Probably Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His presidency marked an important transition in how Americans understood the role of the national government. My parents were both children of the Depression and the Second World War, so they lionized him. But also, as a political scientist, my study of American politics suggests the American government became a much more effective influence in people’s lives—for good—under his presidency.
What issue do you think is most important to California voters?
To California voters in entirety, I would suspect the economy, jobs. That general area is always going to be important.
What issue do you think is most important to Latino voters in California?
I would say immigration in the current environment, but it isn’t always so. In my work on Latinos, I repeatedly find that Latino issue priorities look a lot like everybody else’s issue priorities: economic growth, public safety, education, health insurance—and then, for Latinos, immigration. The one interesting footnote to that was during the Iraq War, Iraq was a really big deal for Latinos, and they were largely in opposition.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
We Gon’ Be Alright by Jeff Chang.
What was it like to be an expert witness for Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that recognized marriage equality as a constitutionally protected right?
So, in that case I testified only on paper. I was just submitting an affidavit. That wasn’t particularly exciting. They did that entire trial in five months. The more exciting moments were in Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry [the other marriage equality cases]. In the Prop 8 trial, Hollingsworth v. Perry, I was actually on the witness stand in federal court in San Francisco for nine hours. I was cross-examined for six hours, and that was obviously exciting. I was deposed four times, I submitted two reports, I was present at other depositions. I was really in the process. For Windsor, I was deposed once, by lawyers for the House of Representatives.
In all instances, I submitted reports. But the Prop 8 trial was definitely the exciting one.
Who was your childhood hero?
Captain Kirk. I really wanted to fly into space. Still kind of do.
Do you have a favorite kind of sandwich?
I would probably say a Cuban sandwich would be my favorite sandwich.
If you didn’t live in Los Angeles, where would you be?
That’s very easy. Anywhere in Catalonia, especially Sitges, which is about 20 miles south of Barcelona. Or I’d live in Barcelona, on the Mediterranean. In fact, if the next time you call I don’t answer, there’s a pretty good chance that’s where I am.
What would you do if you had one more hour in the day?
Where would we find you at 9:00 p.m. on a typical Friday night?
On my couch, one dog on each side, watching either a movie or something I’ve recorded, and just hearing my kids make noise upstairs. They wouldn’t be with me, they’d be upstairs.
What keeps you up at night?
The current state of the country.