LOS ANGELES - Democrats are reaching out for Hispanic voters ahead of California’s primary election June 7th. Hispanics make up one third of the state’s adult population, and they are being courted by the campaigns of presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Trump statements an issue
Volunteers have been signing up new voters, canvassing neighborhoods, and calling registered Democrats on the phone. They are motivated partly by presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has said that Mexico is sending criminals, including rapists, to the United States among the immigrants who cross the border illegally. Candidate Trump says he is criticizing only those who break the law, and he points to Hispanics who support him. Maria Aguila, who lives near San Francisco, is one of his supporters, saying it is “because we need change.” Aguila says “We need real change this time.”
A Democrat and Clinton supporter at a neighborhood phone bank near Los Angeles, Maria Alvarado Marquez, finds Trump’s comments offensive. She says that people coming from Latin America and the Muslim world are looking for a better life. “These are all people who want freedom — religious freedom, economic freedoms,” she said, and she says that both groups have been maligned by Trump. This is “probably the most important election of my life,” she added.
The proposed wall
Polls show that most Hispanics are alarmed by Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the southern US border. Teacher Stephanie Sandoval says getting to know Hispanic students from families with mixed status gives her pause.
“I’ve been moderate, sometimes conservative on some issues,” she said, “but seeing how those issues affect some people, for example with Donald Trump and building the wall.” That concern brought her to a sidewalk holding a campaign sign, her first time active in a political contest.
Hispanic age split
Hillary Clinton has an overall lead among Hispanics, but younger Hispanics favor Bernie Sanders by a large margin. Polls show that economic issues and education top the list of Hispanic concerns, and campaign ads from both candidates hit hard on those themes.
Still, it’s the Republican in the race who motivates many Hispanics ahead of next week’s California primary election.
Hispanics in neighboring states
High voter turnout in the Hispanic community could make a difference in the South and Southwest, said Raphael Sonenshein of the Pat Brown Institute at California State University, Los Angeles.
“It could matter, not in California, which is just going to go Democratic no matter what,” he said, ‘“but in Arizona… [and] in Florida, which is one of the most competitive states in the country, which not only has Cuban Americans, but a large number of people who have moved from Puerto Rico in this last year.”
He says heavy Hispanic turnout could sway state and congressional contests in places like Arizona, which is nearly 30 percent Hispanic, where Republican senator John McCain faces Republican challengers in the state’s August primary and will potentially face a popular Democrat, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, in November.