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Hispanic Caucus renews effort to expand campaign map

BOLD PAC had success in states with growing Latino populations

Oregon Democrat Eddy Morales, who is running in a crowded race for the open 3rd District seat, has the backing of BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congresssional Hispanic Caucus.
Oregon Democrat Eddy Morales, who is running in a crowded race for the open 3rd District seat, has the backing of BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congresssional Hispanic Caucus. (Photo courtesy of Eddy Morales for Congress)

BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, found success last cycle by endorsing candidates running in Pacific Northwest states with small but growing Latino populations. 

The group plans to deploy a similar strategy this year as it seeks to stem Republican gains with Hispanic voters and help Democrats win control of the House. 

Among those receiving an early endorsement is Democrat Eddy Morales, a community organizer and the son of an undocumented immigrant, who is running in a crowded race in Oregon’s 3rd District. Morales, 44, said he has seen Latino political clout increase since he arrived in the state at the age of 6. 

From the school board to the state legislature, “our numbers have grown,” he said. “Latinos make up the largest minority in the district.”

Morales, who serves on the Gresham City Council, is running in the May 21 primary for a rare open seat in the safe blue district. Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who has represented the Portland-centered district since 1996, announced late last year that he was retiring. 

Other top Democratic contenders in the race include former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, the sister of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who was endorsed this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; and state Rep. Maxine Dexter, a physician who has the support of former Gov. John Kitzhaber and Everytown for Gun Safety. Due to the district’s Democratic dominance, the winner of the primary is favored to win the general election.

Morales was born in the U.S., but he often recounts his mother’s journey from Mexico in the trunk of a car. She fled domestic violence in California and settled among migrant farmworkers in Woodburn, Ore., a mostly Latino community about 30 miles south of Portland. He said his family’s experience has shaped his perspective on the debates over immigration and border security unfolding in Congress. 

“A lot of us are really tired of people playing political football with our communities, our families,” he said.

‘Latinos are everywhere’

Victoria McGroary, executive director of BOLD PAC, hopes Morales will follow Reps. Andrea Salinas, who won an open seat in Oregon’s 6th District, and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, who flipped a seat for the Democrats in neighboring Washington state. BOLD PAC endorsed both women in 2022.

“We are laser-focused on getting Latinos elected to Congress … and we will look for a strong recruit anywhere, because we know that Latinos are everywhere,” McGroary said. The group’s endorsement provides a candidate with additional resources and training.

Latinos make up about 14 percent of the population in Oregon, up from 4 percent in 1990. “While it may not be a state that is at the forefront of someone’s mind when they think about the Latino community, we know that there is a very rich and growing Latino community there,” McGroary said.

BOLD PAC and other national Latino outreach groups have traditionally focused on Texas and Arizona, states where Latino voters are most concentrated. But last cycle, the group expanded the map: In addition to Salinas and Gluesenkamp Pérez, it backed Nebraska state Sen. Tony Vargas, who sought to unseat Republican Rep. Don Bacon. 

Vargas lost in 2022 and is trying again; he once again has BOLD PAC’s support. The group has also endorsed state Sen. Emily Randall for an open seat in Washington’s 6th District.

Republicans have also worked to recruit diverse candidates. In 2020, the GOP had a net gain of 14 seats in the House, and every seat it flipped from Democrats was captured by a woman, a veteran or a candidate of color. In 2022, the party put forth a historic slate of nearly 70 Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American candidates.

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