First look: Libertarian-leaning group targeting Latinos gets new leadership
The Koch-backed LIBRE Initiative named a George W. Bush administration alum its new CEO as the group eyes growing its reach with Latinos, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: The move by the libertarian-leaning organization comes as both parties vie for Latino voters, especially as the 2024 election gears up.
- Latino voters are shifting to the right in some places.
Details: The LIBRE Initiative will announce Thursday that Jose Mallea will be the group's first CEO.
- Mallea worked in various roles in the White House during the second Bush presidency, ran Marco Rubio's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, and advised Jeb Bush on his 2016 presidential campaign.
- The organization also announced that Sandra Benitez, a former director of Hispanic engagement for the Republican National Committee, is now the group's executive director.
- She replaced David Velazquez, who had been LIBRE's executive director since 2018.
Zoom in: Benitez told Axios that LIBRE is developing plans to expand operations from its current 12 states in the coming months, although she didn't know how many states yet.
- The group also will double its staff and spend more money on polling ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Background: The LIBRE Initiative was formed in 2011 as part of the Koch network to push libertarian-leaning policies.
- The group has supported moderate immigration and criminal justice reforms.
- It has opposed the Affordable Healthcare Act and increased federal spending on social programs.
The intrigue: LIBRE has held forums on tax reform and also sponsored classes for driving and citizenship tests in Spanish targeting Latinos.
- The group also has held events around holidays to engage with community members and small business owners.
What they're saying: "I know what the average person is going through every single day, whether it's trying to start a business or just trying to be out there in the workforce, man," Mallea told Axios.
- Mallea recently opened a brewery and said he could relate to people struggling to make a small business successful.
Between the lines: Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha, based in D.C., and Republican consultant Mike Madrid, based in Sacramento, have credited LIBRE's outreach for helping motivate more conservative-leaning Latino voters.
- Madrid and Rocha said Democrats failed in 2020 to build a similar outreach to Latinos.
- But Democrats in 2022 adjusted. U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto told Axios that constant outreach to Latino voters in Nevada is one of the reasons for her close re-election win.
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