Monday, April 15, 2024

Can Local Latino candidates help Democrats in midterms?

Raquel Terán is running for State Legislator in Arizona’s District 30, spanning from Central Phoenix to Glendale on the west side. Her district has over 50 percent Latino voters and since August her outreach efforts have helped outpace Republicans by 160 percent in new registered voters.

In raw numbers, that is 400 precious new voters that did not vote in 2016, and Latino districts across the state are helping Democrats outpace Republicans in registration.

The Latino vote remains an elusive target for the Democratic party. Data compiled by Pew Research shows that Latino voter turnout has only slowly increased from below 40 percent in 2000 to just about 48 percent in 2016 in Presidential elections.

Terán spoke to NBC News at a local diner in her district. “When I started to organize in 2006, it became intentional organizing around building political power in the Latino community,” she said, “But as the anti-immigrant sentiment and the attacks kept coming out of the state legislature, people were starting to become more conscientious about us needing to participate.”

Scholars of Latino politics have questioned whether parties, especially the Democrats, have invested enough in mobilizing Hispanic voters. For instance, the results of a recent tracking poll by Latino Decision shows that almost sixty percent of Latinos have not been contacted by any of the political parties or any political organization.

Melissa Michelson, a professor of political science at Menlo College, is an expert on Latino mobilization. She said a state like Arizona is primed for Latino turnout that defies the odds; “There’s solid scholarly evidence that local Latinx candidates increase Latinx turnout,” said Michelson.

While Michelson acknowledges the skepticism, she believes there’s also reason to believe Latino candidates running for offices from school board to mayor can have a major impact. “There are likely some robust local efforts out there by those campaigns and Latinx-serving community organizations to make sure their voices are heard at the polls in November,” said Michelson.