Why Hispanic voters are a focus in Wisconsin's 2022 election
Emphasizing the issues of jobs, public safety and education, Republicans are trying to shift more Hispanic and Latino voters from Democrats leading up to the 2022 midterm election in Wisconsin.
By Marisa Wojcik | Here & Now
October 21, 2022
“The Latinx vote is very important and it’s been very critical in Wisconsin in the last major races, in 2018 and 2020,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz.
Like every election season, campaigns are getting out and talking to voters. But the 2022 midterm elections have a particular focus on the Hispanic and Latino vote in Wisconsin.
“Outreach has been shown to make a big difference, especially door-to-door campaigns,” said Benjamin Marquez.
“We decided to to start mobilizing the Latinx vote,” said Neumann-Ortiz.
Neumann-Ortiz is the director and founder of Voces de la Frontera, an organization advocating for immigrants and low-wage workers – and an arm of their organization endorses candidates.
“Candidates that stand with us on the issue of immigrant and racial justice, workers rights and education rights,” she explained.
For Voces, those candidates have been Democrats — and historically, Hispanic and Latino voters have favored this party.
“They vote for the Democrats. And it’s been pretty consistent,” said Marquez, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison specializing in Chicano and Latino studies.
“The Democrats have to have a good strategy for reaching out to Latino voters. They have to make contact on the ground. They have to convince them that the election is important, that their vote matters, and that they should go to all of this trouble to get out and vote for a party that oftentimes doesn’t deliver,” he said.
When Democrats don’t deliver, support for them isn’t guaranteed.
“In 2020, we actually had a drop off of Latino participation compared to 2016,” said Neumann-Ortiz. “People didn’t want to just reject Trump. Latinos, like other voters, I think, want to know, ‘What do you offer? What’s the change that you offer?'”
“Hispanic voters have been taken for granted by Democrats,” said Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and launched the Operación ¡Vamos! campaign in nine battleground states.
“They don’t have to get all Latino votes to win elections. They just have to get enough to deny the Democrats an election,” said Marquez.
Conservatives believe they have more to offer based on the top issues for Hispanic and Latino voters.
“Number one is jobs. Number two is jobs. And, that’s number three as well,” Marquez said.
“It’s their livelihood, it’s their faith, it’s their kids. And it’s the safety of their community is what they’re focused on,” said Scott.
Republicans have a few strategies in their campaign. The first is on issues. At the doors in south Milwaukee, Helder Toste doesn’t need to prompt anyone about candidates, elections or even the Republican Party. He simply asks what is important in their lives.
“No han hecho nada. No han hecho nada y de verdad que hay muchos como accidentes aquí en este camino, corren los carros muy rápido, como si fueran en un freeway, y de verdad es peligroso para los niños como salen a jugar y de repente se le va el balón,” said Milwaukee resident Gaudencia Ruiz, “y un carro pasa es muy duro. Claro y eso es muy peligroso.”
[“They haven’t done anything and there are a lot of accidents here on this road, cars drive fast like it was a freeway. And truly, it’s dangerous. They come out to play, and suddenly the ball goes,” said Milwaukee resident Gaudencia Ruiz, “and a car is going by and it’s very serious. Very dangerous.”]
“Tengo, como, un hijo que es hiperactivo, es clase especial, y quitaron todo esos, esa ayuda de clases especiales,” Ruiz added.
[“I have a son who is hyperactive, in a special class, and they got rid of all this help from the special classes in public school,” Ruiz added.]
“Asaltos, balaceras, robos,” said Milwaukee resident Juana Grimaldo. “Ha subido mucho.”
[“Assaults, shootings, robberies,” said Milwaukee resident Juana Grimaldo. “It’s increased a lot.”]
Grimaldo continued: “Más que nada la seguridad porque ya, a veces uno está viendo lo que está pasando y uno se preocupa por los hijos.”
[Grimaldo continued: “More than anything it’s safety because sometimes you’re seeing what is happening, and you start to worry about your children.”]
The second strategy points a finger at the party currently in power.
“Tú cómo piensas que ha hecho el trabajo el presidente, buen trabajo, mal, buen trabajo o mal trabajo?” Toste asked.
[“Do you think the president has done his job? Good job? Or bad job?” Toste asked.]
“Mal trabajo, porque no ha cumplido lo que prometió,” Grimaldo replied.
[“A bad job, because he hasn’t accomplished what he promised,” Grimaldo replied.]
“They need results more than they need party loyalty,” noted Marquez.
And finally, perhaps most essential, you have to show up.
“En su vida, que ha vivido aquí veinte años, alguien que se ha llamado o contactado un partido político?,” asked Toste.
[“In your life, that you’ve lived here for 20 years, has a political party ever called you or contacted you?” asked Toste.]
“Nada,” replied Grimaldo
[“Nothing,” replied Grimaldo.]
“Y tu que piensas que eso sale de que?” Toste asked.
[“And where do you think that comes from?” Toste asked.]
“Pues, verdad de que como somos mexicanos,” Grimaldo replied.
[“Well, truly because we’re Mexicans,” Grimaldo replied.]
“No nos hacen caso,” said Toste.
[“They don’t pay attention to us,” said Toste.]
“No nos hacen caso,” said Grimaldo.
[“They don’t pay attention to us,” said Grimaldo.]
“Hispanic voters are way more inclined to vote Republican as long as Republicans reach out to and talk to them,” said Scott. “Hispanic voters are fed up with the public school system around the country right now. They want a better economic market. They don’t want to see inflation. They want to live in safe communities … if we talk about those issues, then we’re going to win elections.”
One issue that may seem counterintuitive for Hispanics and Latinos to support Republicans on is immigration. Maria Castaneda in Racine says immigration is the most important issue for her and why she’s a Democrat.
“La inmigracion,” said Castaneda, “it’s something that hurts because we came the same way. We got lucky but we’re in the same.”
Marquez said this tie to the immigrant identity has been shown to fade over time.
“With each succeeding generation of Latinos living in the United States, the further away they get from that. And so the Latinos that voted for Donald Trump and his anti-immigration policy saw what border enforcement was and heard about how immigrants are being treated,” said Marquez. “But they look at that and say, well, that’s not me.”
Even Castaneda says one of her children is Republican.
“Most of them are Democrats,” she said about her kids.
“I know my oldest is not,” Castaneda added.
That’s not to say that the Democrats don’t still hold the advantage.
“Two out of three Latino voters see the value in a large social welfare state, civil rights protection, and they’re willing to pay for these things,” Marquez said.
The Hispanic and Latino population has been one of the fastest growing in the United States, making this shifting voting bloc all the more crucial.
“For the last 30 years in Wisconsin, Latinos have been the largest segment of growth,” noted Neumann-Ortiz.
“About half if not more now of all Wisconsin dairy workers are Latinos. So they’re filling the void that resulted from rural depopulation,” said Marquez.
In a state like Wisconsin, where elections are famously close, campaigns are trying to reach every community, every voter, or every person who knows a voter.
“There’s a generation of children of undocumented parents who are turning 18 every year that is significant — 11,000 in 2020 turned 18, eligible to vote for the first time, whose parents are undocumented in a state where the margin is 18,000 to 23,000,” Neumann-Ortiz said.
“That’s decisive,” she added, “but if they feel that the Democrats are not doing enough, then they feel like dropping out.”
In essence, turnout matters.
“But, we have to show up. Republican candidates have to show up and we have to talk to voters — all voters,” said Scott.
“If they make an inroad into the Latino population,” said Marquez, “they’ve got a winning formula.”