Gallego, Biden engage Arizona Latinos in person while Republican outreach offices are still closed

gallego

US Rep. Ruben Gallego (center) talks with JL Boxing Academy boxer (left) and owner, Junior Lopez (right). Photo by Camaron Stevenson

By Camaron Stevenson

May 14, 2024

A Cricket Wireless in Phoenix.

A title loan servicer in Milwaukee.

A sex shop in Georgia.

These represent a small sample of retailers across the country that have taken the place of Republican Hispanic Community Centers, as the short-lived effort to create an oasis for disgruntled Latino voters has turned out to be little more than a mirage.

More hype than splash

After spending an entire year promoting its Hispanic Community Centers as a way to build a long-term oasis for disgruntled Latino voters, financial records from the Federal Elections Commission show that the Arizona centers were open for only a few months in the fall of 2022. Republican leaders began to promote the centers as early as September 2021—and as recently as March 2024, Republican National Committee Chair Laura Trump claimed the outreach centers were still operational.

“Actually, we are keeping those all open, I can report that today,” Trump said on Fox News. “It doesn’t matter who you are in this country, everyone understands—I think— what’s at stake in this upcoming election.”

But at the time of Trump’s claim, The Copper Courier confirmed that neither the Republican Hispanic Community Center in south Phoenix or Tucson is open—and, in fact, neither has been leased since the week before the November 2022 General Election.

“I don’t remember anything like that,” said Lorenz D., Club Manager for Planet Fitness in the same shopping complex. “There was a Fallas that closed, but I don’t think that’s it.”

State Rep. Teresa Martinez and US Rep. Juan Ciscomani, who both promoted the opening of the community centers in 2022, did not respond to questions concerning their closures.

republican office

The south Phoenix space now rented out by Cricket Wireless was used as a Republican Hispanic Community Center for a few months in 2022. Photo by Camaron Stevenson.

Crucial voter outreach

Latinos make up one-third of Arizona’s population, and make up a quarter of the state’s registered voters—a voting bloc Republicans have vocally been eager to win over, although their efforts appear to be more smoke and mirrors than tangible results.

The lackluster showing could diminish gains achieved among Latino voters since 2020. A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal in March found that President Joe Biden’s support among Latino voters has dropped since he was first elected, and former President Donald Trump now holds a seven-point lead over Biden among Latino men.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic Party as a whole, in contrast, have upped their efforts to cater to Arizona Latinos. Biden visited Phoenix in March to kick off a national initiative centered on policies to uplift Latino communities called “Latinos con Biden-Harris.” While in town, Biden visited with a group of Latino voters at the restaurant El Portal, where he thanked them for their continued support.

“You’re the reason why, in large part, I beat Donald Trump. Let’s beat him again,” said Biden. “This is a guy who—the way he talks about the Latino community is, well, in 2016 he called Latinos criminals, drug dealers, and rapists when he came down that escalator. Now he says immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country.”

Authentic outreach

Biden also could receive support from down-ballot candidates like US Rep. Ruben Gallego. The US Senate candidate has represented a Latino-majority district since 2015, and Latino voters outside the district are quickly warming up to the Iraq war veteran.

Gallego teamed up with JL Boxing Academy in Glendale to host a fight night watch party for the March 4 match between Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia. The gym provided the fight, and the Gallego campaign provided the taco truck.

Most at the event were relatively unengaged politically—and, while those who did vote in 2020 said they cast their ballot for Biden, this time around, they were leaning towards Trump. But the presence of Gallego—not at a large rally or on stage, but hanging out in a parking lot making predictions about the fight—won several attendees over.

Junior Lopez, the gym’s owner, said casual events like fight night help politicians like Gallego build trust by building up the community.

“We’re very fortunate to have him show up and be here, to help us with this event so we can celebrate together as a community,” said Lopez. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the community in general to learn a little bit more about our elections.”

But, while Democrats are utilizing boxing gyms and restaurants as avenues to meet Latino voters where they are within their communities, Republican spaces hailed as a way to elicit similar outreach appears to be virtually nonexistent.

tucson republican office

Despite claims by RNC Chair Laura Trump that all Republican Hispanic Outreach Centers are operational, the Tucson office hasn’t been leased since November 2022, and the business complex where it was located is closed for construction. Photo by Christina Hrouch.

Author

  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

CATEGORIES: GOP ACCOUNTABILITY

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This