Hispanic voters make up the fastest-growing segment of the Pennsylvania electorate, and Keystone State Republicans say they are making inroads into this traditionally Democratic demographic. And while they remain a relatively small percentage of the overall electorate, in a state where three of the past five presidential elections were decided by 2.5 percent of the vote or less, Hispanic voters could have an outsized impact on the 2022 election.
“The RNC continues to make historic investments and inroads with Hispanic communities across Pennsylvania,” says Jaime Florez, RNC Hispanic Communications Director. “Our permanent, data-driven ground game and historic track record of results will secure Republican victories up and down the ballot in 2022.”
It may already be working on a local level. In June, Republicans flipped the mayoral seat in McAllen, Texas, a border community where about 85 percent of residents are Hispanic.
“This win indicates the growing support for Republican policies among Hispanic voters and is a strong sign of the great momentum building towards 2022,” the RNC said in a statement.
The state Republican Party has responded to these trends by opening an outreach office in Allentown, the third-largest city in the state and one with a large Hispanic population.
“What we have to offer is a better job plan, better economics, and just a lot of things that really helped them and their communities,” Andres Weller with the Republican National Committee’s Field Program told Delaware Valley Journal.
Like Americans in other communities, Hispanic Americans experienced a record low unemployment during the Trump administration.
“The median income of Hispanic Americans rose by $1,786 during President Donald Trump’s first year in office,” says Weller. “Also, homeownership percentages have risen.”
Since 2000, the Hispanic percentage of the voting-age population in the U.S. has nearly doubled, from 7 percent to 14 percent. Over that same period, the percentage of white voters has fallen from 76 to 67 percent, while the Black vote has remained relatively flat, around 13 percent.
In Pennsylvania, the numbers are smaller but the trend is almost identical. The potential Hispanic vote has more than doubled, from 2 to 5 percent since 2000, while White voters dropped from 87 to 81 percent and the Black voter population edged up from 9 to 10 percent.
“We have a presence in the Hispanic and Latino communities, especially in cities [like] the Bethlehem and Reading areas, even Chester and Montgomery, where we are seeing an increase in Latinos and Hispanics moving in,” Weller said. “The office in Allentown in 2020, it was on a main street, and we had signs saying ‘Republican Office, Trump Victory Office, RNC Office, Come Register to Vote Here’ and some people would come by the office and be shocked to see these signs, but after just talking and saying, ‘Listen, this is what we have to offer, here are the accomplishments, meet the candidates, and we can help you right now register to vote,’ we were within weeks registering 30 to 50 people just from the Democratic Party or undecided.”
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party did not respond to repeated requests for comment. However, the party believes it is the best choice for voters of color.
“As the Latino population grows in the United States, communities have continued to turn out in record numbers and help to organize and spread the word about the shared priorities of Democrats and the Latino community,” reads the Democratic National Committee (DNC) website. “Democrats are the party that wants to build bridges, not walls, and lift up all Americans, (and) by fighting to pass comprehensive immigration reform, protect and expand access to health care, and create an economy that works for everyone, Democrats are making investments that will move our country forward.”
Democrats might want to try harder. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported more Latinos are bidding ‘adios’ to Democrats. Left-leaning MSNBC contributor Paola Ramos calls the situation a crisis.
Weller says his family is part of this transition to the GOP.
“When my mother immigrated to America from Mexico, she was at first Democrat and then changed Republican. She did not change her values or beliefs in any way and I believe that’s the same with the Latino community, that it’s not about changing their beliefs or changing the way that they’re already thinking, it’s just showing that these are Republican values, these are Republican accomplishments that are actually Republican and not Democrat,” Weller said.
In last year’s election, Trump earned the highest share of minority votes nationwide for a Republican in 60 years. In fact, more than a quarter of Trump’s support in 2020 came from non-white voters. In Pennsylvania, Trump got 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls.
That has the Republican National Committee (RNC) optimistic going into the 2022 mid-term elections.
“We’re really trying out here in the cities and we’re going to continue to try with registering voters and making sure that everyone has what they need from our side to make an educated vote,” Weller said.