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Latino Voters Were A Force In Nevada In 2018. Who Will They Back In 2020?


Starting in February, Iowa and New Hampshire will be the first states to hold primaries or caucuses to choose the Democratic nominee for president. But after that comes Nevada, the first Western state to vote. What happens in Nevada could serve as a litmus test for the Latino vote. The swing state is 29% Latino.

Getting the temperature of the Latino vote matters because for the first time, Latinos will be the largest non-white group to vote in a presidential election. In Nevada, candidates and their campaign staff have spent months seeking endorsements from Latino community leaders.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Speaking Spanish).

ELIZABETH WARREN: When I become president, Latinx families will have a champion in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But is it working? We reached out to journalist Humberto Sanchez. He writes for the online news website The Nevada Independent.



GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you tell me a little bit more about the demographic there? I mean, obviously, Latinos are very diverse. I mean, what does the Latino electorate look like there?

SANCHEZ: They're very young. They're working-class. They are active in their unions. It's a growing population that's starting to feel its power within the electorate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are the issues that they care about?

SANCHEZ: Latinos care about health care. They care about education because they're a young group. But they, most importantly, care about immigration. It's a tight-knit community, so everybody knows someone who's been caught up in the system. So it hits home the issue, and so people are very engaged for that reason.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you tell me a story about a Latino voter there that might, you know, exemplify some of the things that they're thinking about right now?

SANCHEZ: Well, it's interesting. Somebody whose endorsement is highly sought is someone who cannot vote - who's Astrid Silva. She's a very important voice in Nevada. She's a DREAMer. She gave the retort to the State of the Union in 2017. Her endorsement has been sought, but ironically, she cannot vote.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What have Democratic candidates been doing? I mean, we have, obviously, the culinary union. It's very strong there. It really made a big difference in 2018. What are we seeing on the ground in Nevada?

SANCHEZ: The candidates are flooding to Nevada every weekend, every day there's an event. They're speaking to the unions. They're speaking to the casinos. They're going and trying to reach people wherever they can. Elizabeth Warren has had people in Nevada since January. It's been a very impressive flood of staff.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nevada hasn't been getting a lot of national media attention in the same way as South Carolina or Iowa, but it is much more representative of the diversity of the country. And with the Democratic race still so wide open, how important is Nevada right now?

SANCHEZ: Nevada's really important. It's pretty much the gateway to the West for the Democratic nominee. That's because doing well in Nevada could set yourself up for doing well in California, which has 495 delegates up for grabs, which could be all she wrote after that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joe Biden currently leads in Latino polling, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren right behind. Why?

SANCHEZ: Joe Biden is seen as somebody who can beat Donald Trump, and that is something that's really important to Nevadans and the Latino community. Recently, Representative Dina Titus - she endorsed Joe Biden, and she made that very point that he is the candidate that can beat Donald Trump. And her district is very diverse and is where most of the Democrats live in the state.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we saw a big change, though, in Nevada with more Latinos coming out to vote in 2018, and that felt like there was a real sea change. I mean, is there an expectation now that Latinos in Nevada have reached their sort of electoral potential and that they're an engaged part of the electorate?

SANCHEZ: Well, it's a young community, and it's growing more and more - are eligible to vote every year. So the trend has been that they are starting to flex their muscles more. So if that continues, then they'll be growing power within the state for years to come.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Humberto Sanchez of The Nevada Independent. Thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.