Politicians Try Spanish

Editor
By Editor November 5, 2018 11:02

Politicians Try Spanish

Politicians Try Spanish

Democratic Rep. and Senate hopeful Kyrsten Sinema listened as a small group of Latino business owners introduced themselves, sitting at a private dining room inside a Mexican restaurant in Tucson.

As one of them recounted his upbringing and how he’d started several restaurants in southern Arizona, he struggled to remember the English word for “muñeca.”

“Doll,” Sinema offered. “Yo hablo español.”

I speak Spanish.

As Election Day nears, Sinema has been among the most aggressive Arizona candidates in terms of courting Latino voters in Spanish.

In addition to sprinkling the language throughout her remarks on the campaign trail, she has run several Spanish-language radio, TV and online ads. She also took part in a live town hall with Arizona’s Univision affiliate.

Sinema’s not the only candidate looking to make inroads with the state’s — and nation’s — fastest-growing electorate.

Nearly all Democratic hopefuls in statewide races told The Arizona Republic they’d invested in Spanish-language ads ahead of Nov. 6.

Fewer Republicans reported purchasing airtime for Spanish-language spots. But Gov. Doug Ducey’s re-election campaign was among the top spenders for both parties.

More energized than ever

Latinos make up nearly a third of the state’s population, but account for only 20 percent of registered voters. They’ve historically had the lowest turnout of all racial or ethnic groups, according to U.S. Census data.

For several election cycles, voter-advocacy organizations have been working to change that. This year alone, One Arizona, a coalition of Latino groups around the state, registered some 190,000 people to vote — mostly Latinos. And organizers have followed up with text, call and mail campaigns to get them to the polls.

“I think you’re going to see an increase in the number of Latino voters, Spanish-speaking (voters),” said Lisa Magaña, associate director of Arizona State University’s School of Transborder Studies and a professor specializing in Latino politics. She said she’s noticed Latinos are more energized this year.

“I definitely see it in my students,” she said. “I have not ever encountered anything like this, and I’ve been teaching for 20 years.”

She largely credits Trump for pushing Latinos to the polls. He has made politics more personal, she said, particularly when it comes to wedge issues such as immigration, which has outsized influence among Latino voters given personal connections to the issue.

As a growing number of young Latinos reach voting age and many newly naturalized citizens can vote for the first time, Magaña said campaigns cannot afford to ignore them.

And with an estimated 60 percent of all voting-age Latinos in Arizona speaking Spanish at home, targeted campaigns using ads in that language to reach out to them just make sense, she said.

“If you include them, if you have issues that are relevant and important, they’re gonna turn out,” she said.

Pew Research Center report released Nov. 2 backed up Magaña’s analysis.

It showed a sharp spike in the percentage of registered Latino voters who said they were enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterms compared to 2014 — 55 percent versus 37 percent.

“This year’s election comes at a time when most Latinos have grown dissatisfied with the nation’s direction and have more concerns about their place in American society,” the report said.

“… Similar shares of both (Republicans and Democrats in this group) say they have given quite a lot of thought to the upcoming election.”

Latinos key in Senate election

In recent weeks, Sinema’s face has blanketed the airwaves of the local Univision affiliate, with the candidate using her anglicized Spanish to speak directly to voters.

“Seré una senadora que siempre luchará por sus derechos,” she says. I will be a senator that will always fight for your rights.

Her campaign declined to say how much it had spent on the ads. Sinema said in a written statement that the concerns she hears from the Latino community “are the same that I hear from people all across the state,” including access to health care and education, two key themes in her TV spots.

Though Sinema declined to talk about her strategy to win over Latino voters, Danny Ortega, a surrogate for her campaign, said her investment showed the “stark contrast” between Sinema and her Republican rival, Congresswoman Martha McSally.

The two are locked in a tight race to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and become the state’s first elected female senator.

“Even though they expect Latinos to turn out in greater numbers, there’s little outreach done to them,” Ortega said. With the ad buy, “I think that Kyrsten has done what’s necessary to show her commitment to reach out to the community,” he said.

McSally’s campaign did not respond to questions about its outreach efforts to Latino and Spanish-speaking voters. But on Friday, the campaign touted the endorsement of several Hispanic pastors.

“I keep watching the polls, and they go back and forth on who’s leading in terms of the Senate race,” said Magaña, the ASU professor. “And from all accounts, the Latino vote is going to be really important in this Arizona election.”

The outcome of the race, which could shift the makeup of the Senate, has also attracted significant outside spending. Exactly how much outside groups have spent on Spanish-language ads isn’t clear.

Political-action committees such as Majority Forward and Women Vote have invested heavily, running Spanish ads in favor of Sinema. Other groups, such as Red & Gold, have run attack ads against McSally.

‘Specific, targeted messaging’

In the governor’s race, Republican incumbent Ducey has received bipartisan praise for improving the state’s trade relationship with Mexico. But some have criticized him for ignoring Latino residents at home as he worked to repair things abroad.

The two ads he chose to have translated into Spanish this election cycle aim to combat that criticism, talking up the state’s job growth and public-school teachers as assets that benefit all Arizonans.

“The ad that is up now is a positive ad,” campaign spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. “It’s focused on the governor’s background, coming to Arizona, building a business and really the top issues for all voters — education, the economy, public safety.”

The campaign spent about $108,000 on television ads in the Phoenix and Tucson markets, Scarpinato said. The ads mirror their English-language counterparts frame for frame, he said, explaining that the campaign “felt it was important to have the same messaging.”

This is what you should know about candidates Doug Ducey and David Garcia. Carly Henry, The Republic | azcentral.com

David Garcia, an Arizona State University professor and Ducey’s Democratic challenger, reported spending about $115,000 on TV and radio ads in Spanish.

The candidate has long said he is counting on energizing young and minority voters, who he hopes are inspired by the possibility of electing the first Latino governor in Arizona in decades. He has said his family represents the state’s shifting demographics.

“For too long, campaigns in Arizona on both sides have ignored and disfranchised Spanish-speaking voters,” campaign spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said. “Our campaign, from the start, knew we needed to engage them not only to accomplish results but to increase the electorate through voter education.”

Unlike Ducey, Garcia’s ad used “targeted, specific messaging to Spanish-speaking voters versus simply translating an English-language ad,” Elliott said.

‘Apruebo este mensaje’

Spanish-language ads have sparked controversy in the secretary of state’s race.

Republican candidate Steve Gaynor — who previously said ballots and “all the material in our country” should be English-only — has run at least one Spanish radio spot.

At the end of the ad, Gaynor says: “Soy Steve Gaynor, y apruebo este mensaje.” I’m Steve Gaynor, and I approve this message.

Asked to elaborate on Gaynor’s Spanish-language strategy, campaign consultant Brian Seitchik would say only that the campaign had been working to “reach voters up and down the state, in various media and languages.”

He declined to comment further, saying the campaign keeps its media strategy private.

Gaynor’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Katie Hobbs, did not directly fund any ads in Spanish, according to her campaign. But the ACLU of Arizona spent $109,200 on a Spanish radio-ad buy slamming Gaynor, saying he “openly advocated to make it harder to vote for non-English speakers.”

“The ACLU is engaging in the 2018 elections to demonstrate to people that elections have a huge impact on our civil liberties, including the rights of immigrants,” spokesman Steve Kilar said via email Friday.

“The goal of our voter-education program is to infuse a discussion of civil rights and civil-liberties issues into the race, and to communicate to the public how the choice of elected officials leads to differences in policy outcomes that affect people’s lives.”

‘Reaching all communities’

Incumbent Attorney General Mark Brnovich has not aired any ads in Spanish, according to his campaign.

Democratic challenger January Contreras has, though her campaign did not specify how much it had spent.

“Reaching all communities in Arizona is important, especially in a statewide race,” Contreras spokeswoman Kendra Johnson said. “Our campaign has invested in Spanish-language radio, and more importantly, we’re meeting voters in person through outreach and field programs.”

In the race for superintendent of public instruction, Democrat and Spanish-speaker Kathy Hoffman has run radio ads in the Phoenix and Tucson markets.

The scripts were unique, not translations, according to campaign spokeswoman Emily O’Neil, and featured the voices of both Hoffman and Latino supporters. O’Neil said she did not have a funding total available.

“Kathy values communities of diverse backgrounds and understands that the Spanish-speaking community is an often underserved voting group,” she said. “We wanted to ensure her message of advocating for inclusive, bilingual education was heard by Spanish-speakers in key areas of Arizona.”

Hoffman’s Republican rival, Frank Riggs, did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither did the campaigns for Democrat Mark Manoil or Republican state Sen. Kimberly Yee, the candidates for state treasurer.

Communicating directly

In the crowded Corporation Commission race, both Democratic candidates have run Spanish-language ads, though their investments varied.

Sandra Kennedy paid about $500 for a print ad in the Phoenix market, for instance, while Kiana Maria Sears spent about $12,500 for a television spot on Univision.

Steve Brittle, Kennedy’s treasurer, said the campaign decided to do Spanish-language outreach “because (Spanish-speakers) are a good portion of the Arizona population.”

“They all pay utility bills, and they should be concerned about the corruption on the Commission,” he said.

Sears told The Republic she is “concerned about the quality of life for all Arizonans,” and the “fabric of Arizona includes a huge up-and-coming, growing Latino population.”

“I believe my message is universal, so my message was the same (in both languages),” she said. “Every community should have clean air and clean water — it doesn’t matter what your zip code is.”

Arizona Corporation Commission candidates discuss a potential APS and Pinnacle West subpoena.Arizona Republic

Political-action committee Chispa AZ, which concentrates on Latino and environmental issues, has spent millions on TV and radio ads backing Kennedy and Sears.

“We focused not just on making sure our messages were bilingual, but also on education,” said Laura Dent, Chispa’s executive director.

“While Latinos are disproportionately impacted by climate change, we are underrepresented in the political process. Often, there is less familiarity with how decisions around clean air, clean energy, air quality are made by the elected officials that should be representing the people.”

Justin Olson, a Republican incumbent running for re-election to the Commission, said he has not aired any Spanish ads because he is running his campaign “on a shoestring budget.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources that my Democratic opponents have benefited from,” he said, criticizing “special interests.”

“I am fluent in Spanish after serving a two-year mission in the Dominican Republican, and … being able to communicate directly with voters has been very well-received,” he said.”

Editor
By Editor November 5, 2018 11:02

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