Aug 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP steps up Hispanic state legislator push

Illustration of a pattern of “I voted” stickers in Spanish and English.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The nation's largest organization of Republican state leaders is seeking to reverse the declining number of GOP Latino state lawmakers by rolling out targeted ads and highlighting Hispanic recruits.

Why it matters: Republicans see an opportunity to capture swing state legislative seats and build a deep, diverse GOP bench amid a political shift among Latinos.

Details: The Republican State Leadership Committee recently announced it would spend $50,000 on a Spanish-language commercial to run online in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

  • "Democrats don't take us seriously," a narrator says before a clip of first lady Jill Biden botching a "Si Se Puede" chant.
  • "Democrats are great at pandering but not governing. And their policies are making it harder for all Americans to thrive."

By the numbers: Of the 451 Hispanic state legislators today, 87% are Democrats, and 13% are Republicans, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators executive director Kenneth Romero-Cruz told Axios.

  • That's a significant decline for Republicans since 2002, when around 30% of Hispanic state legislators were GOP members, Romero-Cruz said.

Yes, but: New Mexico Republicans recently nominated a diverse slate of candidates in state legislative races, including the highest number of GOP Hispanic candidates in state party history.

  • Democrats' generic advantage over Republicans among U.S. Latino adults fell from 16 points to 12 between March and June, according to Ipsos polling for Axios.
  • Other polls and surveys have shown more dire scenarios for Democrats, with preferences essentially tied.

The intrigue: The RSLC is also providing assistance to Hispanic Republican state lawmaker candidates and highlighting their journeys.

  • Among those featured are New Mexico's Nicole Chavez, a mother who lost a son to a drive-by shooting, and Oregon's John Velez, a businessman who grew up in Puerto Rico under extreme poverty.  

What they're saying: "Democrats continue to lose ground in Hispanic communities because their radical agenda is responsible for skyrocketing inflation, high gas prices, and the surge in violent crime," RSLC president Dee Duncan told Axios.

  • "The RSLC is incredibly excited about the strong number of Hispanic candidates running for state office as we continue our mission to grow the Republican Party from the ground up."

The other side: Christina Polizzi, a Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee spokesperson, said Republicans have a lot of work to do to catch up with Democrats electing Latinos in state seats.

  • "All Republicans have to run on, especially in 2022, is chaos. They don't have actual solutions to offer families."
  • "Democrats are running on expanding health care access, extending affordable health care access, raising wages, (and) making sure that families have access to paid sick leave if they need it."

What to watch: How the GOP performs in state races in Nevada and New Mexico, where Democrats control both states' chambers.

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