Latino Vote to Determine Outcome of Dozens of 2022 Midterm Races

By John Haughey
John Haughey
John Haughey
John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.
September 21, 2022 Updated: September 30, 2022

How 32 million eligible Latinos will vote in dozens of pivotal House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections across the country in November will be vital in determining which party controls Congress after this year’s midterm elections.

Latinos make up the second-largest voting bloc in the United States, constituting 18.7 percent of the nation’s total population.

That’s no secret, of course, with candidates of all persuasions aggressively soliciting the Latino vote with Spanish-language political ads in tight races in Texas, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Oregon, and Florida.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced on Sept. 8 that it had hosted more than 5,000 separate events this year appealing to minority voters at 38 voter outreach centers in 19 states, including dozens labeled as “Hispanic community centers.” The campaign is meant to sustain the momentum Republicans gained among Latino voters during the Trump presidency.

Democratic heavyweights are directly appealing to Latino voters to seal erosion in what had been a solid, reliable bank of support. Critics within and outside the party say Democrats may have taken the Hispanic vote for granted and are only now belatedly focusing on it.

President Joe Biden addressed the 45th Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala on Sept. 15. He used the occasion to tout how the American Rescue Plan benefits Latinos by providing access to vaccines, better health care, and keeping schools open.

On Sept. 25, former President Barak Obama, a Democrat, will address the 5th annual L’ATTITUDE Conference, the nation’s “premier Latino business event,” in San Diego.

Both parties are trying to tailor their candidates’ campaigns to appeal to Latino voters with tactics and strategies based on data and polls collected and analyzed since June by research firms, media groups, and campaigns.

Regardless of how the data is interpreted, there’s ample opportunity for candidates of both parties to gain favor with a Latino “voting bloc” that’s hardly monolithic but—despite distinct ethnic and regional variations—appears predominately concerned with jobs, cost of living, and the economy.

In 2020, when Latinos cast one-tenth of the ballots in the presidential election, Biden received an estimated 61 percent of that vote, down from the more than 70 percent Obama received in his two elections.

Latino voters nationwide identified jobs, the economy, health care, schools, and public safety as top priorities in a survey of Latino voters conducted in July by UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy group. A Siena College poll of Hispanic voters published on Sept. 16 reaffirmed the findings.

Both surveys indicate that Latinos are amenable to Republican messaging on jobs and the economy, but a significant majority of them want progress on gun control and immigration policies. An overwhelming number favor legal access to abortion.

The emergence of abortion access as an issue among Latino voters may spell trouble for some Republican hopefuls. For the first time since it conducted Latino voter surveys this century, UnidosUS reported that access to abortion was cited by Latino voters as a top five issue, with more than 70 percent of respondents saying it should remain legal.

This emerging trend in the wake of June’s U.S. Supreme Court repeal of Roe v Wade could stem the eroding Latino support for their party, Democrats say.

That claim may have some validation in the Siena College survey of 522 Hispanic voters conducted Sept. 6 through Sept. 14 within a broader poll of 1,399 registered voters nationwide. That survey found that Latinos are more likely to agree with Democrats on more issues than Republicans but will support Republican candidates strong on crime and policing.

Worryingly for Democratic candidates, 40 percent of Latino respondents in the Siena poll expressed reservations about the Democratic Party’s progressive wing’s focus on race and gender.

Most Latino survey respondents ultimately said their vote would come down to which candidates best address their economic concerns. According to the Sienna poll, Latino voters are evenly split on which party they think can best deliver jobs and lower the cost of living.

Overall, 56 percent of the Sienna poll respondents said they would vote blue and 32 percent said they would vote red in November.

While that may sound like good news for Democrats, it may not be enough good news for the party to thwart the forecast that Republicans will retake the House and Senate.

According to the Siena survey, young Latino voters, especially men in Texas and Florida, are increasingly registering as Republicans.  That trend is confirmed in a Sept. 2 through Sept. 11 nationwide survey of 400 registered Latino voters published on Sept. 14 by BSP Research.

All the data, polls, and analyses add to uncertainty for Nov. 8 candidates in dozens of U.S. House races where Latinos make up 20 percent or more of the constituency.

The “Latino vote” is also expected to be a key determinant in several close gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, such as those in Arizona and Nevada, where Spanish speakers make up 25 percent of eligible voters.

Latinos are projected to sway outcomes even in districts or states without a large presence in overall voter numbers. In Pennsylvania, Latinos account for less than 10 percent of total voters but have proven to be key in determining winners and losers in close races.

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Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas on Aug. 6, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Arizona

Latinos constitute one-third of Arizona’s residents and one-quarter of the state’s registered voters, according to a July analysis by the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute. By some estimates, Latinos will make up half the state’s population by 2050.

Approximately 840,000 Latinos voted in the 2020 election in Arizona, which saw a record 3.4 million voter turnout. Biden edged Trump by 10,457 votes.

Approximately 644,600 Latinos will cast ballots on Nov. 8, according to one forecast. That would amount to a record Latino turnout for an Arizona midterm election and four times the number that voted in the 2002 primary.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, 45 percent of the approximately 1 million Latinos registered to vote in the state are enrolled as Democrats, 15 percent are registered as Republicans, and nearly 40 percent aren’t affiliated with a party, reflecting a national trend among all voters in registering as independents or “NAs,” meaning “nonaffiliated” with a party.

How Latinos within that unaffiliated contingent will vote could determine if incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) defeats Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Blake Masters as he’s favored to do and if Trump-endorsed Republican Kari Lake beats Democrat Katie Hobbes, Arizona’s current secretary of state, in the “tossup” gubernatorial race.

Lake has made border security an integral component of her campaign, posting on Twitter after her primary win that on “Day 1, I take my hand off the Bible, give the Oath of Office and we Declare an Invasion on our Southern Border.”

But Arizona Latinos, while identifying immigration policy as a concern and being opposed to “open borders,” don’t rate “border security” as a high priority, making it uncertain how the state’s Latino voters will receive Lake’s campaign.

In one survey, Arizona Latinos said they favor keeping abortion legal by 30 percentage points, which hasn’t caused Lake to change her campaign messaging but has prompted Masters to remove his anti-abortion stance from his campaign website.

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Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman celebrates with supporters after a rally in Erie, Pa., on Aug. 12, 2022, while campaigning against Republican hopeful Mehmet Oz in a “tossup” race that could be determined by Latino voters. (Nate Smallwood/Getty Images)

Pennsylvania

Latinos make up only 7.6 percent of the Keystone State’s residents and 5.3 percent of its registered voters, according to an analysis by Pew Research. But they’re regarded as one of the difference-making constituencies in several congressional district races.

While cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh include long-established Latino neighborhoods that traditionally vote Democrat, demographic shifts indicate pockets of Republican-registered Latino voters in cities such as Reading and Allentown.

Therefore, Pennsylvania Latino voters are targeted as potential lynchpins in the battleground race for governor between Trump-endorsed Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano and Democrat Josh Shapiro. The same is true for the U.S. Senate race between Trump-endorsed TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

Latinos made up 4 percent of the total turnout in Pennsylvania’s 2020 election, up from 3 percent in the 2018 midterms, according to Pew Research.

Latino voters backed Biden by at least a 3–1 margin in Pennsylvania in 2020, according to UCLA. That proved pivotal in his narrowly winning the battleground state.

“Latinos in Pennsylvania will play a decisive role in the 2022 election cycle,” Mi Familia Vota National Programs Manager Irving Zavaleta said during an Aug. 25 media call.

According to the NALEO’s National Latino Voter Tracking Poll, Pennsylvania Latino respondents generally favored Democrats over Republicans by a 32 percentage-point margin; 21 percent said they were undecided.

A total of 73 percent of respondents said abortion should remain legal, with 41 percent saying that it was a “deal-breaker” for them; 83 percent said it was important for Pennsylvania’s elected officials to speak out against white nationalism and white supremacy.

Only 61 percent of NALEO survey respondents in Pennsylvania were sure they would vote in November. Zavaleta said that’s a relatively low percentage. He noted that the large percentage of undecideds among those who say they’ll vote indicates that there has been little outreach to Latino voters in the state by candidates.

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Colorado Republican U.S Senate candidate Joe O’Dea speaks during a primary election night watch party on June 28, 2022, in Denver after securing the Republican nod to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in a state where 21 percent of voters identify as Latino. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

Colorado

According to Univision’s Hispanic Vote, Latinos make up 21 percent of Colorado’s residents and will cast 11 percent of the state’s votes in 2020.

NALEO projects that 8.9 percent more Latinos will vote in this year’s midterm election compared to 2018.

According to a May study from Emerson College’s nationwide initiative on Latinos, nonregistered Colorado Latino voters were split over whether their vote would make a difference, with 41 percent believing that their votes don’t matter, 40 percent saying that they could be swayed to vote  “if … more informed,” and 39 percent saying that they have no intention of voting.

According to the study, nonregistered Colorado Latino voters expressed frustration with the Democratic Party’s focus on immigration reform instead of the economy. The same study said rhetoric from some Republican candidates over border integrity is alienating, meaning that both parties can tailor messages to assuage these issues and garner votes.

Libre Initiative Action, a Hispanic outreach group backed by Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, maintains that concerns over inflation and the cost of living among Latinos are giving Republicans an opportunity to win the U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger and underdog Joe O’Dea and incumbent Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.). Both are running Spanish-language campaign ads.

One of seven new U.S. House districts created nationwide following post-2020 Census redistricting, Colorado’s 8th Congressional District has the largest concentration of Hispanic residents of any Colorado congressional district at 38 percent.

The district’s inaugural election in November pits state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, against state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Republican.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) opened a “Hispanic Community Center” in Thornton earlier this year to appeal to 8th Congressional District voters. At the same time, Libre Initiative Action has been very active on behalf of Kirkmeyer’s platform, claiming that it has knocked on more than 4,000 doors in the district since August.

Epoch Times Photo
Former President Barack Obama and then-Nevada Democratic Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto wave during an October 2016 North Las Vegas campaign rally before Cortez Masto won the election to become the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, a seat she’s defending against Nevada Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt in November. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Nevada

Latinos make up more than 28 percent of Nevada’s total population and 18 percent of the state’s registered voters.

An estimated 165,000 Latinos will vote in November, casting one of every six ballots in Nevada. That would be an increase of 5.8 percent in Latino voter participation from the 2018 midterm elections and a 70.2 percent boost from 2014.

Latino voters will influence Nevada’s “tossup” election for governor between incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, as well as the state’s election for U.S. Senate between Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada).

Cortez Masto is seeking a second term after her 2016 election made her the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Laxalt is trying to counter that advantage with Spanish-language radio ads and events sponsored by his campaign’s Latinos for Laxalt group. The RNC, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and state Republican Party have collectively pledged more than $1 million to an Operación Vamos outreach to Latino voters.

Latino voters are also the dominant voting constituency in at least four state assembly districts.

These three Las Vegas-area congressional districts primarily span Clark County, where three-fourths of the state’s residents live and where three Democratic incumbents are projected to face stiff tests by Republican challengers.

According to the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce, inflation, jobs, and the economy are priorities for Nevada’s Latino voters, who were furious over COVID-19 pandemic school closures.

About 80 percent of the three districts’ residents who identify as “Latino” have a Mexican American background and work in hospitality, service industries, and construction, which are rebounding after pandemic-fostered upheaval, according to NALEO.

All three southern Nevada congressional districts were remapped during post-2020 Census reapportionment, with changes adopted by the Democrat-controlled state assembly inadvertently assisting Republican candidates.

With the 1st Congressional District’s new boundaries stretching east and south of Las Vegas and its reconfigured demographics doubling the district’s number of registered Republicans, a 2–1 Democratic voter bulge has been scaled back to single-percentage points.

Rep. Dana Titus (D-Nevada), a five-term incumbent, fended off a scrappy challenge by Socialist Democrat Amy Vilela in their May primary, flooding Las Vegas with Spanish-language TV ads. She’s doing the same against her Republican challenger, retired U.S. Army Col. Mark Robertson.

In the 4th Congressional District, two-term incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nevada) faces retired U.S. Air Force major and insurance firm owner Sam Peters in another battleground election where Latino voters make up more than 30 percent of the constituency.

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Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole on August 5, 2022. (Bobby Sanchez for The Epoch Times)

Texas

The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed in September that in July 2021, an estimated 40 percent of Texans identified as Latino, eclipsing non-Hispanic white Texans by 0.8 percent and becoming the state’s largest demographic group for the first time.

The Texas Demographic Center reported in 2020 that roughly 83 percent of the state’s Latino population claim Mexican descent.

In 2020, Texas Latino votes made up 23 percent of the ballots cast, up from 21 percent in 2018.

An estimated 1.8 million Texas Latinos will vote in November, according to a NALEO estimate. More than one of every five Texas voters is expected to be Latino in November.

Texans don’t register to vote by party. Hence, it’s hard to gauge by analyzing registration rolls which party is gaining the most voters and how Latino voters in the Lone Star State are leaning until actual results from primary and general elections are counted.

Republicans point to trends in three working-class Rio Grande Valley congressional districts spanning four border counties where traditionally politically liberal but culturally conservative Latinos make up 93 percent of the population and have traditionally voted Democrat.

In 2020, Trump flipped one of the four counties, Zapata County, and narrowed the Democratic margins of victories across the three districts. In a June special election to serve the remainder of retiring Rep. Filemon Vela’s (D-Texas) term in the 34th Congressional District, conservative Republican Mayra Flores, born in Mexico, defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez by nearly eight percentage points, becoming only the second Republican to ever win in a Rio Grande Valley congressional district and the first Latina Republican ever elected to Congress from Texas. 

Flores is among three pro-Trump Mexican American Texas Latinas presenting what the RNC calls a “triple threat” to Democrat dominance in the Rio Grande Valley, espousing conservative positions on abortion, immigration, and election security and finding success, proof that Latino voters are increasingly shifting to the right, Republicans say. 

In the newly redistricted 34th Congressional District, Flores—now the incumbent in the majority-Hispanic district that includes the border city of Brownsville—faces another incumbent, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), who’s opting to run in this district rather than the 15th Congressional District, where he had won three elections since 2016.  

Flores, the wife of a Border Patrol officer and an evangelical Christian who has called for Biden’s impeachment and claims that the Democratic Party is the “greatest threat America faces,” is a pronounced underdog in the redrawn district, which Cook Political Reports says “leans” to Democrats by 9 percentage points.

In the 28th Congressional District, Republican challenger Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is campaigning on religious liberty, school choice, and abortion bans against nine-term incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the last Democrat who opposes abortion and a longtime advocate for the area’s oil and gas industries.

In what most regard as the most competitive of the three Rio Grande congressional district races, Trump-endorsed conservative Republican Monica De La Cruz is running for the 15th Congressional District seat.

De La Cruz faces progressive Democrat Michelle Vallejo in November, with race forecast within the margin of error.

Epoch Times Photo
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Aug. 19, 2022, nearly a month before he authorized a “migrant flight” that shipped mostly Venezuelan refugees from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., a move that could cause some Latino voters—especially Venezuelans — to recoil from the Republican Party in a state where 17.5 percent of state’s voters identify as Latino. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Florida

Latinos make up 26 percent of the Sunshine State’s population and 17 percent of the state’s registered voters.

In 2020, Trump won Florida convincingly, securing 56 percent of the state’s Cuban American vote, which has traditionally favored the Republican Party, but also 50 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote, which, in Florida, traditionally skews to Democrats.

More than 1.4 million Florida Latinos are projected to cast ballots in November, one of about every five votes in the state, similar to the 2018 midterm elections and up by nearly 60 percent from 2014’s midterm election turnout.

Latino voters, especially young men, have been part of the growth of the Republican Party in Florida, which now has more than a 200,000-voter advantage in a state where Democrats had a 600,000-voter advantage in 2016.

The conservative shift among Florida Latinos is expected to benefit two-term incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in his race against his Democratic challenger, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.). The same goes for a dozen Republican candidates and incumbents across the state’s 28 congressional districts and for incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in his reelection bid against former Republican governor and now-Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.)

The Florida Democratic Party has hired a statewide Hispanic voter contact director and increased bilingual staff, hoping to reach more Latino voters to reverse the trend and capitalize on a survey that says 70 percent of Florida respondents support legal access to abortion.

John Haughey
John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.