Latino Voters Could Be Crucial in Colorado’s Biggest Races, and Campaigns Know It

In one house, a petite, tattooed brunette who answered the door cut her spiel off with a question, “What party is she at?” “She’s a Republican,” Torrez replied.

“She’ll get my vote and you probably don’t need to say anything else,” the woman said. “I’m not a fan of the Democratic Party right now.”

It’s not always that easy. Most people were polite, but non-committal. Election day is still two months away and most voters who have answered their doors are not paying too much attention yet.

But that doesn’t stop parties – and their affiliated groups – from trying to influence this central electoral bloc.

Torrez is with Libre Initiative Action, a Hispanic outreach group supported by American conservatives funded by the Koch Brothers for Prosperity. The group estimates that it has knocked on around 4,000 doors in the eighth arrondissement since August.

Latinos make up 22.3% of Colorado’s population, and voters in this group are far from a monolith. But while Latinos in Colorado have strongly backed Democratic candidates in the past, Libre strategic director Angel Merlos says concerns about inflation and the cost of living give Republicans an opportunity to make inroads. This year.

“They believe if they vote Democrat they think they’ll get the same results. So we see, ‘You know what, I’m going to give the Conservative vote a chance,'” he said.

Melos said he wants Republicans on the far right of the party to tone down their rhetoric on immigration.

The new 8th district, which has a large Latino population, is at the center of a toss-up congressional race

Libre focuses on Thorton because he’s in CO-8, the state’s newest congressional district that’s considered a toss-up. It is also the neighborhood with the most Latinos, with nearly 40% of the population. The Republican National Committee recently opened a Hispanic Community Center here, as part of a nationwide effort to reach out to nonwhite communities.

At the center’s opening, Colorado RNC National Committee member Vera Ortegon told the crowd that when it comes to issues such as border security, crime and the economy, the GOP and the Hispanic population were on the same page.

“I look at Republican Party values, and then I look at Hispanic values ​​and they’re the same,” she said.

Democrats have also been very active in making their case to CO-8 voters. The Colorado Democratic Party opened two field offices in the district and also had volunteers who went door-to-door and worked on the phone, reportedly making more than 10,000 calls to date.

“Latinos will see through the half-hearted efforts of the GOP,” said Nico Delgado, spokesman for the Colorado Democrats. “We will make sure voters know their far-right record in trying to ban abortion, siding with wealthy corporations, and opposing a path to citizenship that hurts all Coloradans. “

Non-partisan efforts are also underway to encourage more District residents to vote, no matter for whom. The Eighth District currently has fewer active registered voters than any other district in Colorado.

Sonny Subia, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Colorado, is part of that push. He also knocked on doors, registering Latinos to vote. He said all the attention to voters here shows just how important Latinos will be this fall. “Now they are in the game. Their vote really matters.

The race is between Kirkmeyer, a state senator, and Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, with many analysts giving Kirkmeyer the edge because history and the political climate favor Republicans.

But if Caraveo wins, she would be the first Colorado Latina to make it to Congress. And that possibility excites Thornton Democrat Shantell Hernandez, who moved to the area to rub shoulders with other Latinos.

“It would be a place where we actually have a voice. Many places are truly Caucasian. And there are a lot of places where I don’t see a lot of people who look like me,” she explained. “So I’m really excited that, yes, you have a voice, it’s our own voice.”

Senate race between Michael Bennet and Joe O’Dea also focuses on Latino voters

Congressional District 8 isn’t the only big race where Latino voters could play a pivotal role. In a tight U.S. Senate race, they could also be the key to victory, something both campaigns are clearly aware of.

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
(L-R) Democratic Senator Michael Bennett, Democratic candidate for H-57 Elizabeth Velasco, and Alex Sanchez with Voces Unidas Action Fund. The group supports both candidates.

“We’re going to have a strong program for television, for radio, for digital,” said Democratic Senator Michael Bennet at an August event with the Voces Unidas Action group in Glenwood Springs. “We are not just starting now. We have had a Latin steering committee for a long time. It helped give us some guidance on what we should be focusing on in the campaign. »

His Republican challenger Joe O’Dea is also reaching out via Spanish ads and social media.

“Joe’s working-class story connects with working Americans, Hispanics and Latinos in particular,” Kyle Kohli, O’Dea’s communications director, said in a statement. “Everyone cares about the grocery bill and the safety of their community. [President Joe] Biden’s policies and Bennet’s rubber stamp crushed workers.

O’Dea said he hoped to get 60% of Latin American votes in the race. This would represent a huge swing in the vote; some reports and exit polls two years ago showed that 70% of Latinos supported Colorado Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper.

Some Latin American Democrats say the party took their community’s support for granted

When it comes to values, Democrats like former state Rep. Bri Buentello say their party has a strong case to make.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend to speak for all Latinos in Colorado,” she said at a Pueblo cafe. “But I know my grandparents came to this country because they believed in the American dream, in public education, [the idea that] if you work hard you will get ahead, fair pay for a fair day’s work. These are issues that Democrats still champion today.

220909-LATINO VOTER CAMPAIGNSCaitlyn Kim/CPR News
Pueblo community activist Theresa Trujillo said Democrats could do more to encourage Latino voters and candidates of color.

Still, many Latin American Democrats say the party takes community support for granted. Pueblo community activist Theresa Trujillo notes that she hasn’t seen many people of color running or even being encouraged to run for office statewide. All six Democrats running statewide this year are white.

“I think there are many ways that Latinos are not recognized as a force within the Democratic Party and need to be recognized as a force,” she said.

But Sol Sandovol, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic congressional nomination in the 3rd District, said she doesn’t think the answer is for Latinos to turn away from the Democratic Party.

“If there’s something we need to change, we need to push it back and change it. The worst thing we can do is leave our party behind.

Cost of living and high gas prices are top concerns for Latinos, polls show

A recent poll of Latino voters by UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota indicates that when it comes to issues, there is opportunity for both sides to make gains.

The cost of living and high gas prices emerged as the top concern for Latinos in Colorado, with jobs and the economy coming third. Between these was crime, primarily driven by concerns that guns were too readily available and that elected officials must do more to end school shootings. And abortion also made the list for the first time, with 74% of Latino voters saying it should remain legal regardless of their personal beliefs on the issue.

While Republicans have made democratic management of the economy a major campaign issue, support for stricter gun control and access to abortion could send those voters back to Democrats.

Regardless of the results this fall, Beatriz Soto, a Democrat from Glenwood Springs who lost a bid for local office in 2020, is happy to see the parties running for Latinos.

“Democrats and Republicans are really noticing the power of this voting bloc,” she said. “At the end of the day, I think if either party does their job, it just helps our democracy. And I think Latinos will make both parties better at the end of the day.

The ultimate test, however, will be what happens after election day, and whether parties continue their outreach or if they disappear again until the eve of the next election.

CPR’s Bente Birkeland, Will Cornelius and Stephanie Rivera contributed reporting for this story.

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