The party said engaging the Puerto Rican diaspora and those who relocated from the island to Florida, Pennsylvania and other places following Hurricane Maria has been a priority.
The party purchased about 300,000 cell phone numbers of Puerto Ricans who relocated to Florida and about 25,000 Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in Pennsylvania for voter outreach and mobilization.
Manuel Gomez, coalitions director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said the phone numbers have been a big help in reaching people and then showing up at their doorsteps for conversations about the party and to urge them to vote.
“It’s important to note this is the first time the DNC has made this type of infrastructure investment in Latinos since I’ve been around,” said Gomez, 30, who became politically active in 2008 for Barack Obama’s first presidential run.
“This is the first time they’ve really emphasized Latino and African American outreach,” Gomez said of the national party.
Perez said that more Democrats have registered to vote than Republicans in Pennsylvania part because of the party’s work. And in Wisconsin, the party began organizing Latinos and African-Americans, and that helped the party elect a state Supreme Court judge in April.
“Looking at the governor’s race there, it’s a jump ball,” Perez said. “We were in south Milwaukee two weeks ago at a Latino grocery store touting the importance of early voting. It paid off with a Supreme Court judge, and I’m hopeful it will help win Tammy Baldwin’s re-election and the governor’s race there.”
Baldwin, a Democrat seeking her second term in the Senate, is being challenged by Republican Leah Vukmir in a race Cook’s Political Report rates as likely to remain in Democrats' hands. Cook's rates Wisconsin governor’s race a toss-up between Republican incumbent Scott Walker and Democrat Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of public instruction.
Perez said the party’s investments have gone “right to the grassroots and the communities.”
He has sought to hire organizers from the state where they are working and the lion’s share of investment “has gone to people in the field, not Beltway consultants,” he said, adding that while consultants do important work to build organizing capacity, the party had to go directly to communities.
In Georgia, Genny Castillo was working as a legislative aide for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams when she was hired by the party to do Latino outreach for the party’s Georgia coordinated campaign, which means her outreach benefits all of the state’s Democratic Party candidates.
Of Dominican descent, Castillo said the state is seeing growth in its Dominican population as well as people of Mexican, Colombian and other South American and Caribbean descent.
Castillo said critics are missing the outreach that is happening on the ground, including some of the door-knocking she’s been doing herself.
“People are on the ground because it’s about talking to voters,” she said.
Perez said he is working against the fear that Trump has put into some Latino voters, so getting them out on Election Day has meant giving assurances that “we have their back.”
With another trip planned to Los Angeles, Perez said it’s no coincidence that he's stopping at so many Latino-heavy areas.
“Folks understand they are not only voting for themselves but also for community," he said. "We are putting hope on the ballot.”
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