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Latinos campaign consultants matter

By Patricia Guadalupe

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Political consultancy is likely the least diverse industry of all. There are more people of color in corporate offices than in political campaigns. But when a Latino campaign adviser comes along, he can certainly make a difference in the outcome. 

“Latinos are the fastest-growing part of the electorate and they are some of the more persuadable voters participating in elections these days. So unless you want to rely on white people to tell you how to reach Latinos, you probably should have Latinos on your team at a senior level and as ownership in consulting firms,” says Chuck Rocha, who made history in 2016 at the helm of the Bernie Sanders campaign. It resulted in the book Tío Bernie, written with journalist Adrian Carrasquillo, and illustrated by the award-winning political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz. 

Rocha is currently senior adviser to Rep. Rubén Gallego’s Senate run in Arizona. 

“it’s probably one of the most important races right now and the Latino vote is going to be the deciding factor,” Rocha tells LATINO Magazine. “The Latino population in Arizona has shown to be a resilient voting bloc and it gives Rubén an upper hand. He currently represents a district in Phoenix with a high concentration of Latinos. His story resonates as a combat veteran, and people know he’s part of the community. His story is what people are hungry to see.” 

Rocha says that Latino consultants like him can bring a perspective others can’t, which is particularly crucial for the 2024 elections. 

“The biggest difference we made [on the Bernie Sanders campaign] was that we were senior strategists for the entire campaign, not just senior Latino strategists for the Latino department because I was in a position to make budgetary decisions, I could make sure that the Latino outreach program was interwoven within the strategy of the entire campaign. That’s hardly ever done but it was only done because there was a Latino at the table making the decisions.”
Rocha adds that Democratic campaigns for too long have looked at the Latino vote as a done deal. They certainly can’t do that in 2024 if they expect to win. 

“It’s a losing strategy to assume that Latinos are going to vote one way so focus on other groups. In California you saw more movement from Latinos to the Republican Party in the last election than you did in almost any other state. The trend is moving away from the Democrats in California and a lot of that is based off of the flawed strategy of white consultants for the Democratic Party there in the past. They didn’t prioritize having enough Latinos in senior supervisory positions so Latinos were an afterthought that they were just going to vote Democrat anyway, which has been a fool’s errand,” says Rocha, adding that Latinos will also determine who controls Congress and it’s Latino consultants who are stressing this in campaigns nationwide.

There are 10 congressional districts with significant Latino populations and are considered the 10 biggest elections in the country---some are in districts not only with a large Latino presence, but in districts won by Republicans on the Congressional side and by Joe Biden on the presidential side. Given how narrow majorities are in both the House and Senate, Latino voters in those 10 congressional districts have the upper hand. 

Those districts include Congressional districts in central California where Latinos represent close to the majority of residents. Others are in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, to name a handful. 
Californian Julie Chávez Rodríguez is also making history as the first Latina to run the reelection campaign of a sitting president, and that is incredibly important, says Rocha, particularly in this presidential campaign with persistent talk of a Biden campaign’s wishy-washy Latino outreach. 

“They know there’s a problem with Latino voters and this president, and I don’t think Julie Chávez is going to let them ignore it.. So many more Latinos coming of age because we are such a younger demographic, and Democrats didn’t spend any time explaining to younger Latinos why they are Democrats, and Republicans just ignored them. And now you have Republicans starting to spend money to talk to Latinos and the Democratic Party spending more money than they ever have in Spanish to reach out to Latinos,” says Rocha. “In the last election cycle, the Senate Majority PAC spent more in Spanish than they had in the history of off-year elections, which shows you that they got a wakeup call after Trump got Latinos to vote eight points more Republican.” 

Democratic strategist Kristian Ramos adds, “When we talk to Latinos in polling and focus groups, it’s almost like the last two years didn’t happen. They’re aware things are happening but they don’t associate them with Democrats and that is the problem. They need to resolve that going forward---how do they tell the story of what’s happened over the last 2 ½ years in a way that resonates with the community.”

Other campaign advisers and consultants include Alicia Sisneros of Sisneros Strategies who has advised the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political arm Bold PAC---as Rocha currently is---and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Additionally, Colin Rogero recently founded the firm Conexion with former Biden administration official Adrian Sáenz.  

“The closer we get to the election the more people should be paying attention to the community because we’re going to determine who’s going to be in power,” says Rocha. It’s a fact that to win the White House you have to win Nevada and Arizona and those are super heavy Latino states,” Rocha said. “Also in battleground states such Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina,  Michigan, and Ohio there’s a substantial Latino population. If you lose the Latino vote in the battleground states you don’t win. That’s the bottom line. People will ignore the Latino vote at their own peril.” 

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