As the days passed after the November elections and vote tallies were finalized, it became clear that voters across the U.S. had turned out in record numbers for a midterm election cycle. It also became evident that Latino voters played a pivotal role in many races.
Tom Perez, the first Latino to serve as chair of the Democratic National Committee, told an audience of about 175 people at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles that his party’s get-out-the-vote effort targeted many populations that have been historically hard to motivate in large numbers, including Latinos.
“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon,” Perez said during the Nov. 14 panel co-hosted by UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy & Politics Initiative and the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program.
Perez was joined by three other experts on the U.S. Latino electorate during a wide-ranging discussion about the outcome of key 2018 races and what it means for the future of Congress and the 2020 presidential election.
The panel conversation coincided with the release of a new report by the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative that analyzed 2018 midterm results in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas — states with large Latino populations. The report found a significant increase in Latino ballots cast, said panelist Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of the initiative and professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA.
“We can observe that here in California about 40 percent of majority Latino precincts in Southern California had over a 70 percent increase. For non-Latino precincts, it was only 20 percent, so it was twice as high in the Latino community,” Barreto noted about the difference in voter turnout in 2018 as compared to 2014.
On the Republican side, Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative, said campaign strategists for the GOP missed opportunities to connect with the Latino electorate on many issues by continuing to focus on the divisive rhetoric that has marked much of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Donald Trump never shaped my values or my conservative views. I am pro-life. I believe in a limited government. Less regulation,” Garza continued. “But [Republicans] weren’t connecting on those issues as well as they should.”