Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will keynote Spanish-language Bernie Sanders town hall

AOC, of Puerto Rican heritage, is one of Sanders' most high-profile supporters, crediting the Vermont senator with backing her quest for Congress.
Image: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Holds Green New Deal For Public Housing Town Hall
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks with members of the media before a Green New Deal For Public Housing Town Hall on Dec. 14, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York.Yana Paskova / Getty Images

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By Suzanne Gamboa

Presidential hopefuls’ competition for Latino voters is ratcheting up this weekend with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., scheduled to lead a Spanish-language town hall for Bernie Sanders.

The campaign said Ocasio-Cortez is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Las Vegas town hall for Sanders on Sunday.

The two are scheduled to be together the day before in Venice, Calif., for a rally.

The events are scheduled to follow Thursday’s debate in California, a state where more than 7 million Latinos are eligible to vote, including about 3 million who are not registered.

In Nevada, the Democratic Party has been holding trainings in Spanish to increase Latino participation in the state’s Feb. 22 caucus. Latino voters in the state helped usher in a Democratic candidate and senator.

Sanders has been polling well with Latino voters, particularly young voters. In 2016, his candidacy created a generational divide in the primary with mostly younger Latinos supporting him and older Latinos supporting Clinton.

Clinton won the primary, but since then registration and voting has increased among younger voters. Ocasio-Cortez, who has gained a national following in her first year in Congress, is certain to help him in bolstering Latino support. Ocasio-Cortez, who has called Sanders "Tío Bernie" — tío means uncle in Spanish —credits the Vermont senator with encouraging her congressional campaign.

News of Ocasio-Cortez’s town hall comes after Pete Buttigieg recently released his proposals for the Latino community and as Democrats prepare to debate in a heavily Latino state.

The only Latino candidate in the race, Julián Castro, will not be participating in the debate. Though Castro raised enough money to qualify, his polling numbers did not reach the required levels.

A favorability poll of California millennial Latinos showed 67 percent rated Sanders as favorable, followed by 52 percent for Joe Biden and 51 percent for Julian Castro and Kamala Harris, who has since left the race.

In a September Univision/Latino Decisions poll done after that debate, 21 percent of Latinos said they planned to vote for Sanders, 19 percent for Biden, 15 percent for Elizabeth Warren and 13 percent for Castro.

Among 18-34 year olds, 23 percent said they’d vote for Sanders wt, followed by Warren at 15 percent.

Among Latinos 35-59, Castro was the preferred candidate of 23 percent versus Sanders’ 22 percent. Only 12 percent of Latinos ages 60 and older, said they’d vote for Sanders, compared to 47 percent for Biden and 27 percent for Warren.

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