© 2024 WEMU
Serving Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, MI
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Senate candidates aim to win over Latino voters in Arizona


Latino voter turnout is expected to swell in swing states like Arizona. Voting data indicate that trend should help Democrats like Congressman and U.S. Senate hopeful Ruben Gallego. Gallego is not campaigning like he's taking that demographic for granted, and his likely GOP opponent, Kari Lake, hopes some Latinos will come to her corner. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Ben Giles reports.

BEN GILES, BYLINE: In 2020, roughly a quarter of Arizona voters who cast ballots were Latino. Junior Lopez wasn't one of them.

JUNIOR LOPEZ: No, I didn't.

GILES: Lopez didn't vote in the midterms, either. So how did this trainer end up hosting Gallego at his boxing gym on the border of Phoenix and Glendale? Lopez says he had questions.

LOPEZ: I kind of wanted to know - be informed a little bit of what's going on, what is he bringing to the community and stuff like that. So I kind of was interested in knowing.

GILES: It's events like these - a watch party for an all-Mexican boxing match on Cinco De Mayo weekend while Gallego mingles with potential voters - that are intended as an opportunity to find answers, not just for Lopez, but for a broader Latino community that could be key to Gallego defeating his Republican rival in November.

LOPEZ: So it's a good thing for us to know what's going on. A little more information doesn't hurt nobody.

GILES: Exit polls in Arizona showed about 61% of Latino voters favored President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump in 2020, and research shows that U.S. Senator Mark Kelly slightly surpassed Biden's share of the Latino vote in his midterm victory two years ago. But Gallego isn't counting on historic trends and is focused on connecting with Latino voters in ways that resonate with his own upbringing, like gathering with cousins and friends for boxing matches.

RUBEN GALLEGO: 'Cause this is what I used to do with my family.

GILES: To win Latinos like Lopez, Gallego knows he has to engage early and often - at least in enough time for Lopez to make a July 1 voter registration deadline ahead of the state's July 30 primary.

GALLEGO: The reason we're doing early is because, you know what? A lot of times, politicians and, you know, I have complaints about for so long is that they only talk to the Latino community in the last two weeks, and then they're surprised when we can't get their vote out or when they go vote for somebody else.



GILES: Earlier that same day, Lake makes her own effort to beat Gallego to the punch.


LAKE: Dang, that is quite a welcome. Hello. How are you, Nogales?

GILES: Lake's campaign advertised the event held in the border city of Nogales as a Latinos For Lake rally. While she never explicitly referred to Latino voters in her speech, Candelario and Kimberly Adame say that's missing the point.

KIMBERLY ADAME: It's more about our community.

GILES: By that, she means they're less concerned about voting based on their identity and more concerned about issues specific to their community. Lake's speech touched on her usual campaign fare. She claims the economy is in shambles, immigrants are running rampant in the community and fentanyl is leaving lives and families, particularly those close to the border, irrevocably torn. It's not so different from what Lake was saying when she visited Nogales while campaigning for governor of Arizona two years ago. Still...

CANDELARIO ADAME: But every single time, I feel that power from her voice, man. It's something very, very refreshing, even though I've heard it before. But it's just powerful, and...

GILES: The couple were both born in Nogales. They know they're in the minority in Santa Cruz County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one. But they're ready for a different choice than the ones made by generations before them.

K ADAME: We're so small, and we all were raised on, oh, well, our parents were Democrat; we have to be Democrat. But in reality, that's not how it is.

GILES: More than anything Lake said, Candelario and Kimberly say her mere presence in a community that feels overlooked reaffirmed their support for her.

K ADAME: We might be small, but we still count.

GILES: And in November, every vote, however small, could decide the outcome. For NPR News, I'm Ben Giles in Phoenix.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ben Giles
[Copyright 2024 KJZZ]