America’s election landscape is changing, and Latino voters may be one of the central reasons.
Since the most recent midterm elections in 2018, Hispanic Americans have become the fastest-growing ethnic group among the country’s electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. There are estimated to be 34.5 million eligible Latino voters in America this year.
While Hispanic voters have traditionally leaned Democratic at the polls, a noticeable shift is taking place.
“It’s not an anomaly, and it’s not temporary,” the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said of the shift among Latino voters.
“You’re looking at a very measurable, viable, sustainable, long-term shift from the Hispanic electorate, serving as a de facto key constituency of the Democratic Party, to now emerging as the quintessential independent voting bloc that is conservative,” Rodriguez said, adding that Hispanics are “not necessarily completely Republican, [but] it’s definitely, definitely no longer part of this Democratic train.”
Latino voters are most concerned with “faith, family, and freedom,” he said, noting that when Democrats embrace policies such as “late-term abortion, they literally are saying, ‘We don’t want Latinos in our party.’”
Cesar Ybarra, vice president of policy at FreedomWorks, a political grassroots advocacy organization, told The Daily Signal that “Democrats are losing ground with Hispanics because they are wrong on the issues, and conservatives have capitalized on this.”
Among registered Latino voters, 80% say the economy is the most important issue for them in determining who they will vote for, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Health care, violent crime, and education are also among the topic issues Latinos are concerned about, Pew found.
Polling from Americano Media shows that “while Democrats hold a 14-point lead on the generic ballot amongst Hispanics, 71% of [the 1,200 registered Hispanic voter] respondents believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction,” Ybarra told The Daily Signal in an email Tuesday.
The national polling is clear that the “top issues on the minds of Hispanics voters are the economy, crime, and health care,” Giancarlo Sopo, public relations strategist and founder of Visto Media, told The Daily Signal in an email Monday. “These priorities are fairly consistent across all regions, but in places like South Texas, voters are also concerned about the border crisis. Meanwhile, in Miami, U.S. foreign policy [toward] Latin America invariably makes its way into congressional campaigns.”
Sopo, who is a consultant for South Texas Republican congressional candidates Cassy Garcia and Monica De La Cruz, said it’s important to note that “Hispanics priorities vary significantly by whether they consume mostly English- or Spanish-language television. Those who receive most of their news in Spanish are significantly more liberal than Latinos who prefer English news sources.”
Former President Donald Trump made inroads with Hispanic voters in 2016, and in 2020, Trump gained further ground, winning about 32% of the Latino vote, according to exit polling by The New York Times.
With the midterm elections less than a week away and Republicans hoping to win back the House, three predominantly Hispanic districts in Texas and three in Florida could play an important role in determining control of Congress. (Currently, Republicans hold 212 seats in Congress and Democrats hold 220. Three seats, two in Florida and one in Indiana, are vacant.)
Texas’ 15th Congressional District
Democratic candidate Michelle Vallejo is facing off against Republican candidate Monica De La Cruz in South Texas’ newly drawn 15th Congressional District. The district is about 80% Hispanic and does not have an incumbent because of redistricting, which has made the 250-mile-long district highly competitive.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., held a rally with Vallejo over the weekend in an effort to energize progressive voters in the district.
“The vote right here in this district could determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, and I think the choice is clear,” Sanders said to the crowd. “The choice is whether we give more tax breaks to billionaires and cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and other needed programs—or whether we stand up for the working class of this country. Michelle Vallejo is on the right side.”
Trump has endorsed De La Cruz and called her a “real star” at a rally in the South Texas city of Robstown in October.
Steve Shepard, Politico’s chief election reporter, says Texas’ 15th Congressional District is an example of “Republicans’ surge in the Rio Grande Valley.” Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez won the district by 21 points in 2018, but that lead shrunk to just a 3-point lead in 2020.
Shepard thinks Republican De La Cruz will win the seat, but the polling aggregation website FiveThirtyEight reports that a recent poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International places Vallejo and De La Cruz neck and neck, with each having an estimated 45% of the vote.
Texas’ 28th Congressional District
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar is being challenged by Republican Cassy Garcia in Texas’ 28th District.
A large section of the South Texas district, which is about 78% Hispanic, borders Mexico.
Cuellar is currently serving in his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cuellar is considered to be a moderate Democrat, opposing abortion and advocating for 2nd Amendment rights and a secure border. He narrowly survived Democratic primary challenges from the Left in both 2020 and 2022.
Garcia previously served as deputy state director for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and in 2020, was appointed to serve as commissioner for the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative under Trump.
Texas Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott endorsed Garcia on Oct. 19, saying that as the “wife of a Border Patrol agent, she knows firsthand the consequences of President Biden’s open border policies. Her proven record in public service will help her deliver results for the people of South Texas.”
Politico predicts Cuellar will narrowly defeat Garcia.
Texas’ 34th Congressional District
Shepard, Politico’s chief election reporter, describes the race between Republican Rep. Mayra Flores and Democrat Vicente Gonzalez in Texas’ 34th Congressional District as “hypercompetitive.”
Flores made history over the summer when, during a special election, she won the South Texas congressional seat that had been occupied by Democrats for more than 100 years.
Flores’ victory “speaks to Ronald Reagan’s message of ‘Hispanics are Republican. They just don’t know it yet,’” Ybarra of FreedomWorks said on “The Daily Signal Podcast” in June.
“Republicans have been doing a better job at explaining the Republican Party platform to Hispanic voters,” Ybarra said. “This has been amplified just by the terrible job that President Biden and the congressional Democrats have been doing with the economy.”
Despite Flores’ previous victory in the district, she is running against an incumbent of sorts. Gonzalez currently serves as the representative for Texas’ 15th Congressional District, but is now running in the 34th District, due to the state’s new political map.
In the 2018 general election, Gonzalez soundly defeated his opponent with about 60% of the vote.
Polling data from RMG Research reported by FiveThirtyEight estimates a 4-percentage-point victory for Gonzalez.
Florida’s 9th Congressional District
Florida’s 9th Congressional District is centrally located in the state and is about 40% Hispanic. Republican candidate Scotty Moore is facing off against incumbent Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.
Soto was first elected to represent Florida’s 9th District in 2016. Soto’s Republican opponent does not have a background in politics. Moore writes on his campaign website that he spent 20 years working for a Christian nonprofit, but decided to get involved in politics because the “direction and condition of our awesome country concerns me.”
Soto is predicted to retain his seat. Polling reported by FiveThirtyEight shows Soto defeating Moore by 8 percentage points.
Florida’s 27th Congressional District
Florida’s 27th Congressional District is almost 70% Hispanic and is located within Miami-Dade County in the southern part of the state. Republican Maria Elvira Salazar defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala by about 3 percentage points in 2020.
Now, Salazar faces Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo in what is reportedly going to be a very close race.
The two Hispanic female candidates are vying for votes in the heavily Cuban-American district. Salazar is running on an anti-socialism platform, writing on her campaign website that “the Left want[s] to implement socialism in this country,” while she promises to “preserve and protect the freedoms and values that make this country the most extraordinary country in the history of the world.”
In a recent campaign ad, Taddeo said, “This election will determine if we remain a beacon of freedom or we become a socialist dictatorship,” calling Salazar a “MAGA Republican” who “supports government control over women’s health care decisions.”
Florida Politics reported in mid-October that Salazar led Taddeo by 6 percentage points. Politico predicts Salazar will win the district by a close margin.
Florida’s 28th Congressional District
Florida’s 28th District is a new district created after the 2020 census. The district absorbed most of Florida’s former 26th District, which is currently represented by Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez.
Gimenez was elected to serve Florida’s 26th District in 2020 and is projected to defeat Democratic opponent Robert Asencio, a retired police captain, in Florida’s new southernmost district. Before being elected to Congress, Gimenez served as mayor of Miami-Dade County.
“Gimenez has a keen sense of the changing politics of South Florida,” Politico’s Shepard writes in his analysis of the race. “As the mayor of Miami-Dade County, he endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016—then flipped to back then-President Donald Trump in 2020, when he was going to challenge the then-incumbent, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. It worked: Gimenez won the GOP nomination, and then beat Mucarsel-Powell by 3 points.”
The latest polling data reported by FiveThirtyEight projects Gimenez defeating Asencio by 10 percentage points.
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Author: Virginia Allen