Virginia Democrats attempt to claw back Trump’s gains with Latinos

Photo: Win McNamee – Getty Images

 

The state has become a proving ground for Democratic efforts to stop the bleeding in advance of next year’s midterm elections.

By Político – Sabrina Rodríguez

Oct 4, 2021

Flanked by six of Virginia’s top Latino leaders, over pupusas and empanadas at a recent campaign-sponsored event, Terry McAuliffe met with a group of voters from countries like El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela to talk about his vision for his state.

“We don’t want to look like Texas. We don’t want to look like Florida,” said the former Democratic governor, who is running for his old job. “That’s why you getting out to vote is really important.”

Those two red states loom large in this year’s governor’s race because they’re shorthand for an issue that threatens Democratic prospects in Virginia and in midterm elections across the country in 2022 – the uptick in Latino support for then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

In Virginia, Trump ran six points ahead of his 2016 performance with Latinos, according to exit polls.

Whether it was an anomaly or a sign of something larger, Virginia Democrats aren’t taking any chances in November. The McAuliffe campaign is going to great lengths to win over and drive turnout among Latinos, who constitute roughly 11 percent of the state’s population.

In a governor’s race that has narrowed to within single digits, according to recent polling, Virginia has become a proving ground for Democratic efforts to stop the bleeding in advance of next year’s pivotal midterm elections.

“Serious investments are being made into Latino outreach in the Commonwealth in ways it might not have happened in 2020,” said Del. Alfonso López, the first Latino Democrat elected to the state’s General Assembly.

“When we realized that the ‘Big Lie’ was working with a small segment of the Latino population in other states, we made it clear that we needed to respond to it more effectively and get our message out,” Lopez added, referring to the unsubstantiated allegations by Trump and his supporters that are designed to cast doubt on the 2020 election results.

Virginia Latino leaders say they’ve been pleased with how McAuliffe has handled Latino outreach since announcing his candidacy – and particularly in the months following his primary win. His campaign, which has been endorsed by more than 50 Latino leaders and major organizations, features a dedicated director of Latino outreach who is focused on organizing communities throughout Virginia.

Among those on his side are groundbreaking pols – López, Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala, the first two Latinas elected to the Legislature. Ayala is the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor this year.

They, along with Democratic strategists closely following the race, are convinced the campaign’s messaging around how McAuliffe will handle the pandemic and economic recovery for Virginians will resonate with Latinos.

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