How the Latino vote could decide Senate control

Democrats will struggle to preserve their narrow majority if Cortez Masto and Kelly are defeated. And the two first-term senators probably can’t win unless Latino voters show up for them in large numbers.

“These are states where it’s going to be so close – so losing 2 or 3 percentage points of the Latino vote from last [midterm] the election would be devastating for Kelly or Cortez Masto,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to the senator. Bernie Sanders‘ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign. “Not only do Democrats have to make Latinos perform, they have to outperform if they want to win.”

Latinos have long been considered a key constituency for Democrats in both states. Arizona, where Kelly won its 2020 special election with less than 79,000 votes, has about 1.2 million eligible Latino voters, who make up one in four eligible voters. In Nevada, Cortez Masto — the first and only Latina ever elected to the Senate — won her seat in 2016 with less than 27,000 votes. More than 400,000 Latinos are eligible to vote there, which is 20% of the state’s total.

But the first Democratic spending on Spanish-language ads in both races represents a marked change after years of complaints from Latino agents that the party is waiting until the last minute to spend on outreach to Latinos.

In Arizona, Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of the Senate Democrats’ super PAC, spent more than $1.5 million on Spanish-language TV and radio in March alone, according to a spreadsheet created by a major media buying company and shared with POLITICO by a Democratic Advisor. The ads ran widely in the Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma areas. Kelly’s campaign also spent nearly $28,000 on Spanish-language radio ads in the Tucson market.

In Nevada, Majority Forward spent more than $640,000 on Spanish-language television and radio ads in the Las Vegas and Reno areas this month, in addition to more than $14,000 spent by the Cortez Masto campaign.

“I’ve never seen Democrats spend on Spanish-language ads this early in a Senate race in my entire career,” Rocha said.

Republicans have yet to spend on Spanish-language television or radio ads for Senate races in either state.

representing Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), chairman of BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the amount spent on Spanish-language ads in Arizona so far is huge, given that there was an election. in which $1.5 million was spent on such ads. the course of an entire year.

“Obviously lessons have been learned by Democrats,” Gallego said.

Still, Latino organizers and leaders in both states stress that Republicans are executing their own efforts on the ground — and that it will take much more than Spanish-language ads to secure Democratic wins in November.

“It’s going to be harder than you think. While Republicans may not be big buys in Spanish radio or TV, we certainly see them on the ground,” said Melissa Morales, president of Somos PAC, a Latin American voter mobilization organization that targets battleground states. “They’re having Latino-focused events in Nevada right now… They know we’re there and they’re there too.”

Morales noted that Somos had secured donor funding earlier than ever before, signaling to him that there is recognition within the party of the importance of courting Latino voters. While she was pleased with ad spending so far, she cautioned that TV and radio ads weren’t enough to ensure a strong performance in the fall.

“I want to reiterate that…this is going to take one-on-one conversations, it’s going to take organizing, and it’s going to take personal reaching out to people where they are,” Morales said.

Arizona and Nevada stand out as two of only three battleground states – the other is Colorado – expected to see significant increase in Hispanic participation this year, according to National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Education Fund projections. Arizona is expected to see a 9.6% increase in the number of Latino voters, while Nevada will see a 5.8% jump from 2018.

Rocha called Arizona and Nevada the top two states with large Latino populations that will be “crucial for Democrats to retain their majority,” followed by Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A nonprofit founded by Biden allies, Building Back Together, has bolstered Democratic efforts by touting the president’s victories — and the senators who helped make them possible — to Latinos in Arizona and Nevada. . The group spends nearly $1 million on bilingual ads across TV, radio and digital platforms in battleground states.

Recently, the group aired Spanish-language television ads exclusively in both states promoting Biden’s role in helping small businesses with loans amid the pandemic. They also put up Spanish-language billboards in Arizona touting how Biden, in his first year in office, invested $2.7 billion in loans for Latino-owned small businesses, checks from child tax credit for 17 million Latino children and health care for 730,000 Latinos.

Mayra Macias, director of strategy for Building Back Together, explained that one of the reasons the group is targeting Arizona and Nevada, as well as other battleground states with large Latino populations, is that “these are states where this is going to be important for [Biden] to have people who will support his program.

At the same time, some Latino leaders and organizers are keenly aware of the frustrations that argue the Biden administration has failed to deliver on all of its campaign promises and needs to redouble its efforts to do more this year.

“The administration and the party are not delivering on the promises that our communities expected and that they showed up for. [by voting] in the midst of a pandemic,” said Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of LUCHA, a grassroots organization in Arizona that plans to knock on hundreds of thousands of doors this year.

“So, I ask: how badly do the Democrats want to win? Because Latinos are ready,” she added. “They’re coming out…but we have to give people something they’ll be excited for.”

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