Arizona Dems hope higher Latino turnout will help turn the state blue

Arizona Dems hope higher Latino turnout will help turn the state blue
Arizona Democrats are hoping favorable demographics and President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE's harsh rhetoric on immigration will lead to higher turnout among Latino voters on Election Day, as the party seeks to replicate the model that made it competitive in Colorado and Nevada.
Long-term investments in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives for Latinos paid off for Democrats in 2016, when two of Arizona's neighboring states provided a silver lining in an otherwise disastrous election cycle for Democrats.
But Republicans in Arizona feel they have the advantage by highlighting economic growth under President Trump in a state that hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.
"In 2016 you had huge enthusiasm [among Latinos] in coming out and voting for Secretary Clinton," said Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoWith Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Poll shows Sinema's popularity dropping further among Arizona Democrats Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (D-Ariz.), adding that Democrats captured the Hispanic vote but saw a drop down among white women.
"The same scenario is set up in 2018 — you’re going to have high Latino turnout with high intensity," he said. "The question is: What’s going to happen to the rest of the coalition?"
Clinton's relatively good performance in Arizona spurred more investment in voter registration efforts.
Mi Familia Vota, a national grass-roots organization that registers Hispanic voters, has completed more than 80,000 registrations this year, and Arizona is one of their prime targets.
The state's population is about 30 percent Hispanic, but only 23.4 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.
That means 1.1 million Hispanics are now eligible to vote in Arizona, a significant uptick from the 992,000 in the 2016 election.
Trump's rhetoric and behavior on immigration has also helped mobilize Latinos, according to Democrats.
The president has adopted a hard-line immigration position that's included a push to build a wall on the southern border and a "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents.
Arizona also has its own history of anti-immigrant sentiment and backlash against Hispanics.
In 2010, the state passed an immigration enforcement law that cracked down on illegal immigration and made it a crime to not carry legal identification.
Arizona is also where former Sheriff Joe Arpaio implemented his aggressive immigration enforcement tactics that were widely criticized and eventually got him convicted for contempt of court.
Those incidents helped galvanize Democratic support among Arizona's Latinos, much in the same way that California's Hispanics abandoned the GOP after former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's 1994 reelection campaign featured heated rhetoric on immigration.
But Republicans say Democrats are using scare tactics about the president's record to motivate Latinos, instead of promoting their local candidates.
"Democrats feel that they have this pathway to turn Arizona at the very least purple, if not blue. They probably look at us as the next Colorado," said state Rep. T.J. Shope (R), a Mexican-American who's Speaker Pro Tempore of the Arizona House. "They view Latinos as something that can be used to get there."
"If you look at California, obviously there was a Pete Wilson effect," he added. "It's incumbent on Republicans here in Arizona to highlight people like Rep. [Tony] Rivero."
Rivero is a GOP member of the Arizona House of Representatives who has advocated for fiscal responsibility.
Republicans also believe they can win over Latino voters by promoting Trump's economic record rather than his remarks on immigration, race relations and women's issues.
Shope said manufacturing investments in his district have created 5,000 new jobs in the past two years, and he credited Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Trump's economic policies for that growth.
"Those jobs are available for everybody, and if you enjoy getting a paycheck, frankly, you ought to continue pursuing the same policies," said Shope.
Still, whether that economic argument can work in Arizona remains in doubt.
Whereas Nevada and Colorado were longtime Democratic targets, Arizona was mostly overlooked until shortly before the 2016 campaign. It's not anymore.
"Arizona missed that boat because of John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE being on the ballot in '08, and in '12 a lot more states were in play," said Gallego, referring to the late Republican senator from Arizona who was the 2008 GOP presidential nominee.
And while some Latinos have responded to the GOP's economic message, Republican approval numbers among the Hispanic community are stuck in the low 20s.
A survey released Thursday by polling firm Latino Decisions and Arizona State University showed that 21 percent of the state's Latino registered voters polled consider themselves Republicans, and an identical number support Ducey's reelection and GOP Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyBusiness groups, sensing victory, keep up pressure over tax hikes Kelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema MORE's Senate bid.
"We’ve been dealing with the President Trumps of Arizona for years," said Gallego. "The numbers have dropped as low as they can get because we’ve been down this road for decades now."
"The public opinion of Republicans among Latinos in Arizona is basically mud now," he added.