Top Dem money man puts muscle behind Latino mobilization

Top Dem money man puts muscle behind Latino mobilization

A top Democratic money man is putting his muscle behind boosting Latino voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election.

Henry Muñoz III, the former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is undertaking a new effort to raise money from Latino donors and to mobilize Latino voters, as party leaders seek to maximize turnout from a key demographic whose support for Democrats has been softer than expected in recent election cycles.

“It’s not going to be good enough this time around to wait until a few months before the election to reach out to the Latino community,” Muñoz told The Hill.

“We have an incredible opportunity to grow our support, but we can’t treat it like just a fundraising or get-out-the-vote opportunity, we need programs that make us an integral part of the everyday lives of Latinos.”

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Muñoz stepped down from his position as national finance chairman at the DNC this week after more than six years on the job.

He was the first gay Latino to serve in that role and raised more than $600 million for Democrats during that time, leveraging his celebrity friendships, ties to Latino and LGBT leaders, and vast network of donors to establish himself as a preeminent figure in liberal fundraising circles.

Muñoz is now returning in an advisory capacity to the Latino Victory Project (LVP), the liberal group he founded with actress Eva Longoria in 2014 to elect Latino lawmakers.

It’s a transitional period for LVP, as it seeks a new president and plots its 2020 strategy. Muñoz will help organize LVP’s mobilization and registration strategy for Latino voters.

But Muñoz’s work for the DNC isn’t complete. Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE has asked him to stay on in an emeritus role and as a DNC member-at-large, with “broad responsibilities for the design of Latino engagement and fundraising towards the 2020 election cycle.”

“The work Henry will do next — mobilizing Latino donors, activists, and voters all across the country — will be critical in the 2020 election,” said Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiProgressives call for impeachment inquiry after reported Kavanaugh allegations The promise and peril of offshoring prescription drug pricing Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump MORE (D-Calif.) in a statement.

And though Muñoz isn’t ready to throw his fundraising prowess behind a Democratic candidate in the primary, he plans to be involved, either at some point in the primary or by raising money for the eventual nominee, as he seeks to replicate the success he had raising money for the Obama campaign in 2012.

That year, Muñoz launched the Futuro Fund with the initial goal of raising $6 million from Latino donors for the Obama reelection campaign. The fund blew past that goal, taking in $32 million over the cycle through a fundraising strategy that directly connected donors with specific programs within the Obama campaign.

Muñoz believes he can beat those numbers this time around, providing the eventual nominee with the infrastructure he or she will need to turn out Latino voters in the general election.

“Donors are excited and motivated about what’s coming next,” he said. “We have a presidential slate that is browner, blacker, more female and more gay than ever before. The donors want a race and there’s an unprecedented amount of excitement to invest in the next election cycle.”

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Muñoz is adamant that the Democratic contenders do more than just pay lip service to Latino voters, who he says have felt overlooked in the past.

That hurt Democrats in 2016, when Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz: 'Too many politicians are being subject to criminal prosecution' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Democrats spar over electoral appeal of 'Medicare for All' MORE’s margin of victory among Latinos was about 6 points less than it was in 2012, when President Obama was running for reelection.

It happened again in 2018, when the GOP roughly held onto its margins from 2016, despite conventional wisdom that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE’s rhetoric on immigration would send the party to a historic defeat among Latino voters.

“It’s important for no one to ever take this community for granted,” Muñoz said. “People make a mistake thinking that if they just put Spanish language ads up on the radio that they’re communicating effectively to this very diverse population of people that are different from place to place.".

"I’m going to make sure the people in our community are mobilized, registered and that nobody takes us for granted," he added. "In 2020 it’s going to be very clear who has our best interests at heart. Donors and activists are really enjoying this moment with 22 people on the Democratic side talking to them but it’s important to remind them that they need to respect this community.”

LVP has so far worked with a comparatively small budget, although Muñoz says he hopes to take the group to new heights. Still, working with less than $10 million a year, the group has had some success in getting Latinos elected to governor’s mansions, the House and the Senate in competitive races across the country.

The group has helped elect nearly two-dozen Latino members of Congress, including Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarGun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence House holds moment of silence for El Paso victims House Republicans want details on Democrats' trips to Mexico MORE and Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaAudience laughs when Mueller jokes about member of Congress lying Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Top Dem money man puts muscle behind Latino mobilization MORE, the first two Latina women from Texas to be elected to the House of Representatives.

“Elections don’t win themselves,” Escobar told a room full of Latino activists in Washington on Wednesday night.

“As much as we want to believe that people will do the right thing and head to the polls and understand that this upcoming election is so important because our lives depend on it, they still need us to help tell them why it’s so important and to lead them to the right path. The role Latino Victory plays in that is so critical. La lucha, the fight, is so important because our lives truly depend on it.”

Muñoz has a few secret weapons in his arsenal as he seeks to expand his reach.

He is wildly popular among the celebrity activist class and counts several Hollywood stars as close friends.

Actress Melanie Griffith attended his wedding to Kyle Ferrari, which was officiated by former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden bemoans white supremacy in remarks at civil rights movement site Gun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate MORE. Muñoz has collaborated with director Robert Rodriguez and in 2018, he coordinated a Latino get-out-the-vote bus tour through Florida with Longoria, Gina Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Zoe Saldana.

“One of the things we’ve seen over past few years, and it’s not just for Latinos, but for other minorities and members of the LGBT community, is this recognition we could be significant investors in campaigns,” Muñoz said. “I don’t think that idea existed before … so we’ll be doing everything we possibly can to raise money and provide a voice for communities who don’t feel they’ve had one before.”