Last week, Politico interviewed more than 20 Latino activists, lawmakers and political figures who criticized Joe Biden’s Latino outreach strategy and said they feel the campaign isn’t pouring enough resources or energy into mobilizing Latino voters. On Tuesday, skepticism mounted in another report in which Latino leaders discussed the need to seriously pursue Latina vice president options—including New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
Sources told Politico that Lujan Grisham confirmed privately she’d been vetted for VP, while Cortez Masto told CBS News in November that she’d declined the position. However, many Latino politicians and advocates still want to ensure Latinas are a critical part of the conversation and that there’s some weight thrown behind women who would serve the role.
“If you really like somebody and you’d like them to be considered then speak up… I think that Latino organizations should be speaking up for having a Latina vice presidential candidate,” Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), head of the campaign arm for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told Politico. “I personally have spoken up and I’ll continue to do that.”
Questions over the consideration of a Latina VP reflect a broader charge that Latino voices aren’t strong enough on Biden’s team.
“I’m concerned Biden still doesn’t have strong Latino advisers that are his peers,” Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told Politico. “The Latinos [in the campaign], they’re like on the little kids’ table. They’re not at the grown-ups table.”
Remezcla reached out to the campaign’s deputy director of strategic communications Isabel Aldunate for comment. She replied with a link to a tweet from Biden’s senior advisor Cristóbal Alex, who wrote, “Suggesting that I alone—or any other staffer—should hold the power to determine the next Vice President of the United States is just silly and generally discrediting. There’s one person who will ultimately make that decision: Joe Biden.”
Suggesting that I alone — or any other staffer — should hold the power to determine the next Vice President of the United States is just silly, and generally discrediting. There’s one person who will ultimately make that decision: Joe Biden. https://t.co/G5jHKJuLD5
— Cristóbal Alex (@CristobalJAlex) May 19, 2020
A source close to the vice presidential selection process also suggested to Politico that critics don’t have a full view of what’s going on behind the scenes, saying, “with respect to almost every single thing people read or hear about this effort, those who talk don’t know and those who know don’t talk. Engagement with these groups, which we hold in the best esteem, as well as with the Latino community, is at the heart of our campaign. Anything people think they know about frontrunners they can be assured has no truth to it. This is a broad, exhaustive process that involves over a dozen women, including Latinas.”
The VP reports come as the Biden campaign announced some changes to address criticism of its Latino outreach. They’ve just hired Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the granddaughter of civil rights leader César Chávez, to continue building out links within the community. Rodriguez previously worked with Kamala Harris, both during her presidential run and as her California state director. Prior to that, she oversaw community engagement for the Obama administration. They’ve also ramped up efforts to connect with Latinos in Arizona and Florida.
Still, what remains clear is how crucial the Latino vote will be moving forward. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra dismissed the criticism reported by Politico as “hogwash,” yet made sure to stress how important the Latino vote is—and how remiss the campaign would be not to activate a community it needs.
“If Vice President Joe Biden and his campaign do not invest heavily to get out the Latino vote, to animate the Latino vote to get out, to animate regular Latino voters to get their relatives and neighbors out to vote,” Beccera said, “this will be a tough race.”