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Clinton Homes in on Latinas, a Growing Part of the Electorate

Image: Hillary Clinton speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Awards Gala

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 38th annual Awards Gala in Washington on Oct. 8, 2015. YURI GRIPAS / Reuters

When it comes to getting out to the polls, Latinas are ahead of their male counterparts, something Hillary Clinton wants to capitalize on to get to the White House.

On Monday, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is launching the national group “Mujeres in Politics,” an expansion of a Clinton campaign strategy to turn out las mujeres, the women of the U.S. Latino population. For the launch, Latinas in New York will contact Latinas in Colorado, the campaign said.

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Mark-Viverito told NBC News Latino via e-mail that the initiative is one of the “culturally relevant and bilingual” programs Clinton’s campaign has undertaken.

"Mujeres in Politics was … designed for Latinas to speak to Latinas about the fights they are waging and the importance of their civic participation,” she stated. “Latinas are the CEOs of their family and community and will play a critical role in securing the nomination."

The launch follows a weekend retreat held by Hillary for America and Latino Outreach Director Lorella Praeli, at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters on strategies for reaching Latina voters.

Dolores Huerta, labor organizer and civil rights leader, was among the participants, along with Mark-Viverito, Praeli and Clinton’s political director Amanda Renteria.

Latina voters are a growing part of the electorate, along with other women of color, according to the Center for American Progress. In the 2014 elections, Latinas favored Democratic candidates over Republican candidates by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent, compared to 57 percent to 41 percent by Hispanic men, Pew Research Center found.

In a Latino Decisions poll conducted on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, Latinas said they preferred President Barack Obama over the GOP’s Mitt Romney, 77 percent to 21 percent, a 56-point difference.

Christina Bejarano, an associate professor of political science at University of Kansas who has studied the Latina electorate, said Clinton’s focus on Latinas is a “much needed electoral strategy.”

“Latinas are often neglected by political campaigns, even though they are pivotal and important voters in an election,” Bejarano told NBC News Latino in an email. “Latinas can also help political candidates convey their message to Latino families and communities.”

Clinton’s campaign had already begun trying to tap into the Latina voter pool in Nevada, where the “Mujeres in Politics” program was begun by field organizers Natalie Montelongo and Vanessa Valdivia. A key feature of the program is getting Latinas call other Latinas to drum up support for Clinton, the campaign said.

The national program is focusing on states it has identified as where Latinas will be key in securing the Democratic nomination.

"The narrative out there is that Latinos don't participate in the primary, they don't caucus. Everyone is focused on the general. The goal is for Latinos to play a decisive role in the primary and the caucus," said Lorella Praeli, Clinton's Latino Outreach director, speaking to NBC Latino in a phone call Monday.

Praeli said Latinas are "talking about issues that people wouldn't assume right away they are talking about."

"They were talking about small businesses and national security and gun control," she said. "So you are seeing a sophisticated electorate because they have their heads everywhere. They are thinking about how to make sure the family has food ... they are thinking about how do we get ahead, about their kids going to school," said Praeli.

Jose Aristimuño, a spokesman for the Martin O’Malley campaign, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, said the campaign has an overall Latino outreach program. Also Gabriella Domenzain, the campaign’s director of public engagement, helps the campaign engage Latinas through her position on the campaign and interviews she does with various media outlets, he said.

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to an email requesting information on its Latina outreach work.

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