Padilla will run in parallel elections next year – a special election to end the rest of Harris’ term until 2023 and a general election for a full six-year term.
The plan is to leverage Padilla’s popularity – especially among Latinos – for stronger Latino turnout in the state, where they make up about 30 percent of the electorate. Part of the goal, say Latin Democratic agents and leaders, is to deliver democratic victories in districts with high populations of Latinos who have been overlooked by the party in the past.
“We want to use the momentum of Padilla as the first Latino senator to show new and young voters,” said Christopher Guerrero, vice president of California-based J&Z Strategies, which works with Nuestro PAC on the effort. “We know that knocking them out will also seep down and affect other tickets in the state – and Nuestro PAC is very keen to win back the seats we lost in 2020.”
The effort will focus on seats currently occupied by the Republican reps. David Valadao, Mike Garcia, Young Kim, Michelle Steel and Darrell Issa. In three of these districts, a Republican deposed a Democratic incumbent. Earlier in 2020, Garcia turned his district around in a special election after the Democratic rep. Katie Hills resign.
Guerrero, who served on Padilla’s Senate transition team, explained that most of the seats targeted are in Orange County and the southeastern Los Angeles County area, which has seen significant growth in the Latino population “and not very outreach to communities as new voters. ”
“Latin Americans are such a big part of these districts that if we make a concerted effort to talk to them, we can knock them out and turn these districts blue,” said Eileen Garcia, CEO of Nuestro PAC.
The redistribution process in California – led by an independent citizens’ commission – is still ongoing, meaning the state will not have a final card for several months. The Commission is set to release official draft map on 10 Nov.
California is expected to lose one congressional seat for the first time in its history, reducing the number of house seats from 53 to 52.
State and national Latin Democrats have long called on the Democratic Party to invest more in an early outreach effort – as opposed to in the final weeks of a campaign – to get Latinos out to vote. These calls have been particularly high since the 2020 election, when Latinos across the country gradually switched to Donald Trump.
Latino Democratic agents view California as the primary basis for these investments, as Latino voters represent a significant portion of the electorate and are younger in age.
In the recent gubernatorial election for revocation, an estimated 78 percent of Latinos voted no to the revocation, according to a analysis of UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative. In Southern California, Latino support for Newsom was up 75 percent, even in historic Republican locations like Orange and Riverside counties. Only 40 percent of non-Latino voters voted no to the recall in Orange, and 45 percent of non-Latino voters voted no in Riverside.
In Merced County, a majority Latino county in the state’s Central Valley, 76 percent of Latinos voted no to the recall, compared to 15 percent of non-Latinos, according to the UCLA analysis.
Nuestro PAC, founded by Bernie Sanders’ campaign alumnus Chuck Rocha, will launch its campaign with digital ads and will later include direct mail and TV spots in both English and Spanish.
Earlier this month, the Latino Victory Fund announced that it supports Padilla, the son of Mexican working-class immigrants, for his first full term in the Senate. The progressive group noted that he “has already marked himself” in the Senate as a staunch supporter of voting rights, immigrant rights, access to health care and work on restoring Covid-19.
Padilla, California’s former Secretary of State, has become a leading figure on Capitol Hill in pushing for the adoption of suffrage legislation and the inclusion of immigration reform through President Joe Biden’s comprehensive social spending plan.
Some California Democrats argue that the party needs to commit to raising Padilla’s profile at the national level as part of its efforts to connect with Latino voters. Already, there are signs that his value as a surrogate is being recognized: Padilla campaigned in northern Virginia on Wednesday night for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
“Sen. Padilla is going to be central in not only ensuring that Latino voters who were mobilized in the recall elections in ’21 are ready for the midterm period ’22, but also in getting other voters across the country out,” Sonja said. Diaz, the founder. Director of UCLA’s Latino Politics and Policy Initiative.
“There is a need for the Democratic Party to rally around Senator Padilla’s future and ensure he gets the relevant face time and exposure to create a national donor base,” she added. “It’s important to increase enthusiasm in the party.”
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