Latino

Hispanic Caucus takes a victory lap after underdog win in Oregon

An election worker examines a ballot in Oregon on Thursday, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s (CHC) campaign arm is riding high after winning a high-stakes primary against the top Democratic leadership super PAC and unprecedented spending by a cryptocurrency billionaire.

Oregon state Rep. Andrea Salinas (D) on Friday was officially declared the winner of the House primary for the state’s 6th District, beating newcomer Carrick Flynn, who received more than $13 million in outside support.

Salinas received around $1.6 million, most of it from Bold PAC, the Hispanic caucus’s campaign arm.

“We’re very proud of the [independent expenditure] we did for Andrea Salinas. But the reason we suspect she did as well was because we were the first group to reach out to her, to recruit her. And we realized from day one that she was going to be a quality candidate,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), chair of Bold PAC.

The PAC’s $1.4 million bet on Salinas was the group’s largest-ever independent expenditure campaign for a single candidate.

The decision to open up the checkbook came after the House Majority PAC (HMP), the largest Democratic House super PAC closely tied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), threw about a million dollars in the ring to support Flynn.

“I’m in the camp that says [Bold PAC] spent a lot of money and they proved to HMP and leadership they couldn’t be pushed around,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic campaign consultant who’s worked often with Bold PAC.

“Any time the caucus is taking a stand to fight for the caucus it’s a good thing — it’s what the [Congressional Black Caucus] has done for years, and the CHC flexing their muscles can only be a good thing for the community,” he added.

The Salinas-Flynn race, which also featured seven other Democrats, gained national attention after the Protect Our Future PAC, a group bankrolled by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, started pumping money into the district.

Bold PAC had at that point already recruited Salinas, choosing her over state Rep. Teresa Alonso León and helping Salinas build campaign infrastructure and hire consultants.

“When she decided she was in, we helped her set up a campaign, find strong campaign staff,” said Bold PAC Executive Director Victoria McGroary.

“At every step of the way, Bold PAC was very closely involved in guiding the strategic ship,” she added.

That ship ran into turbulent waters in April, when HMP made a surprise announcement of their endorsement and funding of Flynn, a 35-year-old political newcomer who’d spent most of his professional life away from the district.

While Bold PAC and Democratic leadership seldom butt heads publicly, the group has at times stuck to its guns in similar situations, and at times folded its hand.

In 2020, for instance, then-San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez faced off against now-Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) in a Democratic primary, where the party establishment threw its weight behind the better-funded Jacobs.

Despite Gómez’s broader political and community experience, the CHC and Bold PAC decided not to make a national case to support her.

In contrast, in 2016 Gallego and fellow Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) banded together to recruit now-Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), then a relatively unknown Hermosa Beach city council member, to take on then-Rep. Janice Hahn’s (D-Calif.) anointed successor.

“We took on the establishment when we helped Nanette Barragán, we took on some very hard fights when we helped [Rep.] Ritchie Torres [(D-N.Y.)] win. We’re not afraid to get involved against leadership, with leadership as long as we’re bringing more Latinos and Latinas into the Congress,” said Gallego.

As Bold PAC has won more high profile races, particularly those that receive national attention, it’s helped the group’s fundraising numbers.

The group was originally set up to help CHC incumbents hold onto their seats, and it raised relatively modest figures each election cycle.

Bold PAC started growing substantially under Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), whose tenure helped him win chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and eventually a vacant Senate seat, and further expanded under Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who lost a close election to Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair.

Gallego, who last Congress was first in line to head the CHC, eschewed that position in favor of running for Bold PAC chair.

Widely believed to be considering a challenge to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in 2024, Gallego has aggressively continued Bold PAC’s expansion.

Although Gallego didn’t have a say in the group’s spending on Salinas — independent expenditures are run by a side of Bold PAC that’s not allowed to coordinate with individual campaigns — he had a key role in turning the Oregon 6th District fight into a public David-and-Goliath squabble.

Still, HMP last election cycle raised $160 million to Bold PAC’s $18 million, meaning the CHC group took a much bigger risk in going tit-for-tat with leadership.

“The opportunity cost for us is definitely worth it. We have a mission at Bold PAC to reelect our incumbents and to bring in new diverse members of Congress in, and [Salinas] was part of that mission. You have to ask HMP whether they could have spent their money better because in my opinion, yes, they could’ve,” said Gallego.

“I think HMP overplayed their hand in thinking that we wouldn’t respond,” he added.

And the big expense could become a solid investment, as donors seek out groups with proven winning records.

“There’s no negative from it. The extra money they spent can now be easily raised because they showed what’s possible,” said Rocha.

Tags Andrew Salina Bold PAC Carrick Flynn Chuck Rocha Congressional Hispanic Caucus Ruben Gallego Ruben Gallego

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