Hispanic Democrats give Bloomberg camp warm reception

Hispanic Democrats give Bloomberg camp warm reception
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Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm, Bold PAC, were upbeat about former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's grasp of the importance of Latino outreach after a meeting Thursday.

Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), a former CHC chairwoman who was in the meeting, said Bloomberg came across as "very sincere" while discussing Latino voters, multiculturalism and immigration reform.

"I was surprised at the level of knowledge he has about different communities and his work with those communities," said Sánchez, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate for 2020.

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The meeting featured nearly a dozen members of Congress, according to a person in the room.

In making his case, Bloomberg momentarily broke into Spanish, a language he's reportedly practiced for years.

And Bloomberg touted the presence of Latinos on his campaign staff — an important topic for a group that's focused on Hispanic representation and inclusion.

Bloomberg has hired at least two top-level House staffers who've taken temporary leave from their positions to help the campaign.

"He understands the value of not just having Latinos on staff, but decisionmakers who are empowered," said Sánchez.

The former mayor has scored points with Latino observers with his overall campaign strategy, making early investments in California and calling for a redesign of the primary calendar, which places an early emphasis on less-diverse Iowa and New Hampshire.

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In an opinion piece for CNN earlier this week, Bloomberg credited former presidential candidate Julián Castro — who's endorsed Bloomberg rival Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon No new taxes for the ultra rich — fix bad tax policy instead MORE (D-Mass.) — for opening the debate about diversifying the primary calendar.

"Julián Castro deserves credit for being a leading voice on these issues during his presidential run. But since the changes are unpopular with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, the other candidates have mostly stayed mum," wrote Bloomberg.

Rep. Jesús García (D-Ill.) told The Hill on Wednesday he is glad Bloomberg is raising the issue.

"The Latino vote needs to be courted, it needs to be invested in, it has the potential for flexing itself, but it doesn't happen automatically," said García.

"In the past, Democrats have not engaged other than likely voters, and the future expansion of the community's electoral power lies in engaging infrequent voters," he added.

"Bold PAC wants to make it clear to presidential hopefuls that they need to put time and resources into earning the support of Latino voters across the country. There are 32 million eligible Latino voters this cycle and their vote will be crucial to Democratic victory in swing states like Arizona, Florida and Texas. These potential voters need to be persuaded, and that effort needs to start now," said Jazmin Vargas, a spokeswoman for Bold PAC.

And Bloomberg's thoughts on immigration — an issue that many Hispanics view as a litmus test, even if it is not generally a top kitchen table issue — were on target for the Bold PAC audience.

In response to a question by Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Races heat up for House leadership posts Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans MORE (D-Texas), Bloomberg said immigration reform has to start with legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

It's an answer that Hispanic Democrats expect to hear, but Sánchez said it's also an answer that often rings as an empty promise from candidates.

"The thing that I mentioned [to Bloomberg] is, 'Hey look, I don't want somebody who just supports legalization and immigration reform, I want somebody who'll put political muscle behind it,' " she said.

Immigration reform has often lost out to other political priorities under Democratic administrations, most notably at the beginning of the Obama administration when it was deprioritized in favor of the Affordable Care Act.

"Our community gets bargained away in that process, and I'm tired of that," said Sánchez.

But Sánchez said Bloomberg's take on immigration came across as honest.

"He absolutely understands the importance of getting that done," she said.