Democrats focus on Latino and other voters of color in battleground House races

The hiring of organizers targeting voters of color is beginning earlier than in 2018, the DCCC says.
Image: Desteny Martinez votes in the midterm elections in Norwalk, California, on Oct. 24, 2018.
Desteny Martinez votes in the midterm elections in Norwalk, Calif., on Oct. 24, 2018.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters file

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By Suzanne Gamboa

Democrats hope to build on their winning formula from the 2018 midterms by investing in House races in districts with significant populations of people of color who are eligible to vote.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or the DCCC, announced Tuesday it is placing organizers in an initial slate of 12 battleground districts to reach Latino, African American, Asian American and Native American voters.

The 11 being hired are in addition to 60 organizers who began being placed around the country last March to try to reach voters broadly. One of the organizers will handle two districts in Texas.

The DCCC said it is making an initial six-figure investment to hire the organizers, but declined to release an exact figure.

For the 2018 midterms, the DCCC under Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., as chairman and Dan Sena as executive director spent about $30 million to engage minority voters, but Democrats were left with nearly an $18 million debt.

The 2018 spending in a large number of races — including more than 20 with voting populations that were at least 10 percent or more Latino — led to a surge in early voting by Latinos and others, helping to later flip several districts from Republican to Democrat and for Democrats to win the majority in the House. There are 435 seats in the House, 232 Democrats, 119 Republicans, one independent and four vacancies.

The DCCC, chaired by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., wants to expand the number of seats Democrats hold in the House, giving them a stronger majority and making pushing their agenda through the chamber easier.

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DCCC staff said that the hiring of organizers targeting voters of color is beginning earlier than in 2018.

“We are not taking anything or anyone for granted in 2020,” Bustos said in a statement. She said the investment is an “intentional step to engage and organize communities of color.”

As part of its effort to reach Latino voters, the DCCC commissioned Latino Decisions, a polling firm, with BOLD PAC, the political fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to conduct focus groups with Latinos on election issues and determine how best to reach them.

The latest organizers are tasked with connecting with community and religious leaders and in turn connecting them with campaigns. They serve as something of a consultant to campaigns to assist them in directing money to reach Latino, Asian American, African American and Native American voters and ensuring campaigns are reaching out to voters of color.

The aim is to help keep the incumbent Democrat in place, help a Democrat flip a district or win an open seat.

The organizers have been hired to target certain populations in the following districts:

In California, organizers will target Asian American eligible voters in Congressional District 39, held by Rep. Gil Cisneros; CD-45, held by Rep. Katie Porter; and CD-48, held by Rep. Harley Rouda, all Democrats.

In Georgia, organizers will target African American eligible voters in CD-06, a seat held by Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat, and CD-7, where Republican Rep. Rob Woodall is not running for re-election. They’ll also target African Americans eligible to vote in South Carolina CD-1, held by Democrat Rep. Joe Cunningham, and Virginia’s CD-7, held by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, also a Democrat.

The DCCC organizers will target Latinos in New Mexico’s CD-2, held by Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat and in Texas, in CD-22, where Republican Rep. Pete Olson is retiring, CD-7 held by Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher and CD-23, where Republican Rep. Will Hurd is not seeking re-election.

Democrats will try to turn out more Native American voters in Arizona 1, now held by Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat.

Districts in Florida, a state where the Latino vote is being wooed heavily by Republicans and by President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, is not among the 11.

But DCCC said two Florida congressional districts — 15, represented by Republican Rep. Ross Spano and 26, held by Democratic Rep. Debbie Murcasel-Powell, are being targeted through its March Forward program.

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