Latino voter participation more than doubles 2014 levels

Congressional Democrats and grass-roots groups are taking a midterms victory lap, pointing to Latino voter turnout numbers that they say tipped the balance in several House and Senate races.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said Tuesday that early voting figures indicate a 174 percent increase in Hispanic voter participation compared to the 2014 midterms.

{mosads}Those numbers may very well end up being the largest voter turnout among Latinos in the history of midterm elections.

Community leaders, who have touted their own outreach efforts, heaped praise on the DCCC — the only national party structure that seriously engaged Latino voters, driving new voters to the polls last week.

Latino Victory Fund President Cristobal Alex called Luján “the winner of these midterms” and “the chief architect of this blue wave.”

The strategy, Luján said, consisted of engagement early and often.

“The evidence is clear: Early and active and robust outreach to communities of color … clearly pays off,” Luján said on a call with reporters.

Many outside groups, particularly minority-led organizations and campaign operatives, are keen to replicate the DCCC’s model of success.

Luján, who is running for the No. 4 post in House Democratic leadership this month, said the DCCC “brought together a talented pool of diverse consultants to help guide the campaign committee throughout this process.”

Dan Sena, executive director of the DCCC, and Luján have said they made a conscious choice to hire a diverse staff of employees and consultants. Another component of the DCCC strategy was funneling money to those groups and providing top-notch Washington jobs for minority operatives.

Since Trump’s inauguration, the DCCC spent $30 million on its Hispanic outreach program during the 2018 election cycle, according to Sena.

As a point of comparison, the House Majority PAC, the Democratic House leadership campaign arm, spent $68 million on negative advertising against Republican candidates during the same period.

Luján, Sena and Hispanic grass-roots organizations say their strategy was what drove new voter turnout for a demographic that has consistently participated less in elections, particularly midterms, than other major groups.

More than 80 percent of registered Hispanics ultimately vote, making the registration process of utmost importance, but participation varies widely from state to state.

“What we wanted was a real, organic way to engage Latino voters across the country,” Sena told reporters on Tuesday.

He added the DCCC focused on making voting “feel good” rather than rely on outrage over racially divisive rhetoric coming from President Trump and his GOP allies.

“We spent a fair amount of time studying how to create urgency without it feeling overly heavy or overly sad,” he added.

The strategy of long-term engagement with voters has long been promoted by grass-roots organizers, but mostly ignored by national party structures.

It’s a mainstay for the California Democratic Party, though not easily replicated since the approach relies on the state’s huge Latino population — almost 40 percent of Californians are Hispanic.

But long-term engagement has proven successful in Nevada since 2010, and provided tangible results in Texas and Arizona — two difficult venues for Democrats — in 2018.

Luján said that to build on the success of 2018, other structures within the party should imitate the DCCC’s early-and-often approach to minority engagement.

“This has to be a base part of the budget, not an add-on as it has been in the past,” he said.

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