2014 GOP Governor Candidates Ahead of Democrats in Courting Latino Vote

2014 GOP Governor Candidates Ahead of Democrats in Courting Latino Vote

As the 2014 gubernatorial races heat up, Republican candidates across the country are beginning to launch Spanish language ads touting their business experience and courting the Latino community with stories that emphasize the hard work that brought them to their candidacies.

Fox News Latino reports that Republicans in increasingly Latino-populated states have begun their television offensives on Univisión, Telemundo, and other Spanish channels at an unprecedented early time. Particularly ahead of the curve are Republican gubernatorial candidates in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Illinois–Rick Scott, Greg Abbott, Susana Martinez, and Bruce Rauner, respectively.

Abbott, Fox News notes, was the first in line to release a Spanish language ad in March, eight months before the general election and well before winning the primary. The rest have launched their campaigns this week. According to The Wall Street Journal, these candidates are emphasizing “American Dream-like themes of support for entrepreneurship and small business.” The campaigns hope that Latino voters will connect with messages of hard work and humble backgrounds at the polls.

Governor Scott’s ad, for example, focuses on his modest background and the work he did to get to the top of the Florida Republican ladder–and how his experiences help him relate to Latinos struggling to make ends meet. While Scott is not fluent in Spanish, he does deliver some lines in the language:

Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson told the WSJ that Republican emphasis on Spanish language voters and outreach to multi-ethnic communities will become a priority for the Republican Party in this race: “You can expect to see many of our governors build their coalitions for re-election with multi-language ads and outreach.” Currently, six Republican governors preside over states with significant Latino populations: Arizona, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas.

Republicans are not just beating Democrats to courting the Latino vote; they are doing so with a more universal message for Latino voters. While Democrats have traditionally emphasized their support for immigration reform, Republicans are targeting Latino business owners and parents who hope to provide a better future for their children. In states like Florida, where the Latino population is 85% non-Mexican and composed in large part of Cuban and Venezuelan exiles and Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, immigration is not a significant issue to Latinos. 

The emphasis on Latino voters is new for Republican campaigns. In 2012, Democrats spent about twice as much as Republicans on Latino outreach, though both parties dedicated only single-digit percentages of their budgets to courting that vote. Democratic Senate candidates, for example, spent 3% of their money on Spanish language ads, while Republicans only spent 1%. With an ever-increasing Latin American population, this paradigm is set to crumble, and if 2014 is any indication, the Republican Party is on the forefront of that change.