'The Numbers Don't Lie': Democrats Worry as Latino Voters Lean to the Right in Nevada and Beyond
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LAS VEGAS, NV – Latino voters are showing Democrats that they aren't as "blue" as politicians might think. There's been a shift within this growing demographic to leaning independent and to the right. Both parties are seeking the Latino vote as we go into November, and the groundwork is already being done in Nevada.
Door after door, in the sizzling heat of the Las Vegas summer, Mauricio Garcia knocks on doors for Make the Road Nevada, attempting to persuade prospective voters.
The conversations vary from immigration to inflation to health care.
Civic engagement director Jessica Padron is well aware of the inroads being made by the GOP and worries about an exodus of Latino voters to the right.
She's concerned Democrats have taken this key voting bloc for granted and need to wake up.
"I do feel while some of the policies may not be very popular from the Republican Party, they are investing way more, they are investing way more in these communities. They're doing events. The Democratic playbook hasn't changed. They're doing what I call 'mariachi politics,' which is a taco truck, some mariachis, in the same little couple corners. That doesn't reach when you have the Nicaraguan community, the Cuban community, other groups," Padron told CBN News.
"I think it's really important that we engage all these voters and just say, 'Well, they're automatically going to vote Republican or vote Democrat.' It's about who talks to you, who makes you feel good, who educated you, and who's there for you. Not just during the election period but after," she said.
Nevada could become Ground Zero, where the true impact of a movement is revealed, possibly signaling which party will go on to control Congress after the midterm elections.
In 2020, Latinos made up more than 400,000 eligible voters in Nevada. It's a growing number both parties would like on their side.
Political insider and Nevada Independent editor Elizabeth Thompson says it would be unwise for Democrats to focus on a singular issue like immigration, with issues like inflation and rising costs squeezing all Nevada voters.
"The numbers don't lie," Thompson said. "One of the reasons Donald Trump won in Nevada last time around is because he got a larger share of the Hispanic and Latino vote than most people expected him to. I think that was a wake-up call for the Democrats."
The trends are hard to ignore. Joe Biden lost ground with Hispanic voters in 2020 while Donald Trump made 10-point gains nationwide.
Republicans are trying to keep that momentum going in 2022.
The LIBRE Initiative is focusing its ground game on the economy. LIBRE's Eddie Diaz says anxiety over the cost of living can be tied directly to the party that's in power now.
"Talking about how this year we're going to pay over $5,000 more in taxes, $1,200 more just in gas, $500 more in groceries and they're taking notice of that. They know who's in power, which administration has control currently, and they're getting turned off," Diaz said.
Democrats took another hit in June when Texas Republican Mayra Flores won a special election in a heavily Latino district that had traditionally voted blue.
"We cannot accept the increase of gas, of food, of medication, we cannot accept that," Flores said.
Flores is getting national attention and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says her win is just the beginning.
"Florida, Texas, Nevada, even California. We saw the flipping of certain districts, very strong progressive districts, flipping red. Not even going purple. Going from hard blue to red. And there was one common denominator – these districts were primarily over 60-percent Hispanic populated," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is an influential voice as leader of the NHCLC, which represents more than 40,000 churches.
While he welcomes this trend and believes it's rooted in faith values, he says it's premature to anoint the GOP as the party of Latinos.
"As more and more whites shift towards the left, more and more Latinos are shifting towards the right. So be careful in wanting to deport the future of the conservative movement – that sort of language, tone, rhetoric – it's important for Republicans to be cognizant and aware of that," Rodriguez said.
Back on the ground in Nevada, Marco Hernandez considers himself part of the shift. A candidate for the Clark County Commission, he ran as a Democrat last election cycle and came up just short. He switched to an independent since then.
"I'm actually one of 'em. I went from being a Democrat to being a non-partisan. Because both parties are blaming each other for work that needs to be done and nobody wants to do anything about it," Hernandez said.
"All I know is that the message out there is people are fed up and they want to see change. They don't want to see the same old politics."
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