Nov 7, 2022 - News

Latinos believe they'll make the difference in 8th District

Diana Lynn Duran poses for a portrait inside a Mexican restaurant in Greeley on Oct. 29. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios Denver

This year's election is special for 34-year-old Jorge Villanueva. It marks his first time voting.

  • The Commerce City resident, originally from Guerrero, Mexico, said he wants elected officials to help immigrants, to support small businesses and expand health care.
  • "Those who can vote need to vote," Villanueva tells Axios Denver in Spanish, saying he'll support Democrats.

Driving the news: Latinos represent a significant portion of the new 8th Congressional District, and many say they are energized about the potential of electing Colorado's first Latina member of Congress, Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo.

The question remains whether Latinos will turn out and stay united to elevate one of their own.

  • Spread along U.S. Highway 85, this largely blue-collar district is a mixture of rural and urban corridors, stretching from suburbs north of Denver deep into Weld County.
  • Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer is making a concerted effort to court these voters.

Why it matters: The race is one of the most competitive and expensive U.S. House contests in the nation, and polls show it's close, with Republicans holding a slight edge.

  • If other seats hold, a Republican win would split the state's congressional delegation 4 to 4 — despite the fact President Biden won Colorado by double digits in 20220.

Between the lines: A plurality of the 8th District's registered voters are unaffiliated (46%), according to state data from Sept. 1. Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans, 27% to 24%.

8th District candidates Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat, and Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Republican. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios Denver and Kirkmeyer's campaign

Zoom in: Villanueva is one of thousands of Latino voters in Colorado's new congressional district.

  • The economy, immigration, education and abortion are top of mind for voters in the 8th District, according to multiple Axios Denver interviews in the lead up to the election.
  • Gabriela Chavez, 19, attends the University of Denver but votes in her hometown, Commerce City. She’s unaffiliated, and says that access to abortion, Latino representation in government and improved educational opportunities are driving her midterm vote.

By the numbers: UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights organization, estimates 25% of registered voters in the district are Latino. They make up 39% of its population, according to 2020 census figures.

The big picture: For years, references to the "Latino vote" often reduced the group to a monolith. But people who identify as Latino fall across the political spectrum.

What they're saying: Diana Lynn Duran, a Democrat from Greeley, says she received a legal abortion in a Weld County hospital when she was young, and she wants others to have the same access.

  • She also wants a representative who will help make it easier for people to become U.S. citizens, which she hopes could make Latinos more politically engaged.

Of note: Supporting local businesses was another common refrain among voters.

  • Maria Gonzales, who helped organize an event in Commerce City for Democrats, said she wants to see businesses get more access to capital and increased support for things like creating websites for marketing.
  • Gonzales is the founder and CEO of Adelante Community Development, which backs Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs.

The other side: Republican political activist Maria del Carmen Guzman-Weese, 66, characterized her biggest concern, saying: "You have to choose, do I buy groceries or buy gas?"

  • Crime and fentanyl are two other things she worries about in her community.
  • The Westminster resident wants someone who will combat inflation, but she said it's also important that person represents all the district's residents.

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