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Latino Democratic PAC looks to Oregon, Nebraska for 2022 pickup opportunities

BOLD PAC also endorses candidates in Arizona and Texas

Oregon state Rep. Andrea Salinas was recruited by BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to run the state’s new 6th District.
Oregon state Rep. Andrea Salinas was recruited by BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to run the state’s new 6th District. (Courtesy Andrea Salinas for Congress)

A group of House Democrats focused on electing Latinos is looking beyond states with the largest Hispanic populations in its first round of endorsements.

The initial list of endorsements by BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, provides a glimpse at Democrats’ strategy in 2022, when holding on to their narrow House majority requires steps to address recent Republican gains among Latino and other minority voters. 

“Latinos are found in every district, and sometimes we can be a big difference-maker in a district when it comes to votes, especially in a district where we are 20 to 30 percent of the population,”  said Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, the chairman of BOLD PAC. “If you can expand that base in swing districts, you can really turn them out and win elections.” 

The candidates receiving the initial endorsements, shared first with CQ Roll Call ahead of their release Tuesday, are: Daniel Hernandez in Arizona’s 2nd District, John Lira in Texas’s 23rd, Tony Vargas in Nebraska’s 2nd and Andrea Salinas in Oregon’s 6th. Endorsed candidates get early training and financial support. 

National Latino outreach groups from both parties have long targeted districts across Texas and Arizona, two of the five states where Latino voters are most concentrated.  

Redistricting has complicated that strategy for Democratic groups. In Texas, where Hispanic population growth helped the state secure two new House seats after the 2020 census, Republican mapmakers reduced the number of majority Latino and Black districts when they unveiled a new map this fall. The new map shores up Republican and some Democratic incumbents and, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, leaves only three competitive districts

The 23rd District, where Lira is challenging freshman Republican Tony Gonzales, represents Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in Texas. Under the current lines, President Donald Trump carried the seat by less than 2 points in 2020, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, but he would have won it by 7 points under the new map. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Republican. Nevertheless, Gallego said he sees an opportunity there for Lira, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. 

“He has a profile that could swing a lot of Latino males that we lost in the past,” Gallego said.

Arizona has yet to release new House lines, which are drawn by a nonpartisan commission, but a draft map released last week did not reflect gains in the Latino population. 

Hernandez, a state lawmaker and onetime congressional intern who was credited with helping to save Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life when she was shot at a constituent event in Tucson in 2011, is running for an open seat that could also become more Republican-leaning under a new map. 

Gallego said BOLD PAC was watching the redistricting process in California and New York, both states with large Latino populations where Democrats are expected to have some of their best shots at flipping seats, and will make more endorsements later this cycle. 

In the meantime, BOLD PAC is endorsing in two other pickup opportunities, in Nebraska and Oregon, where new maps have been finalized.

In Nebraska’s 2nd District, Republican incumbent Don Bacon survived challenges from the same progressive Democrat in 2018 and 2020 — when Joe Biden carried his seat by 7 points. Under the new lines, Biden would have carried the seat by 6 points, and Inside Elections rates the race Lean Republican

Democrats have argued that Vargas, a state senator who was first elected in 2016, is a better match for the district than their previous nominee. 

“He’s raising the right money, he’s got the right profile,” Gallego said. “We know this district will be tough, but this is one of those districts where a good candidate with the right profile can swing an election.”

The same was true, he said, in Oregon’s newly drawn 6th District, which leans Democratic. BOLD PAC recruited Salinas, a state representative,  because the group saw her as someone who could energize voters in an off-year election, when turnout typically drops, Gallego said. 

“The district is only 20 percent Latino, but if she can supercharge that Latino vote, she can make that district not only competitive, but actually blue,” he said. 

Inside Elections rates the 6th District race Likely Democratic.

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