Gallego campaign leans into courting Latino voters

Gallego campaign leans into courting Latino voters

US Sen. candidate Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) meets supporters at a campaign event at Grant Park in Phoenix. (Cassidy Araiza for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Camaron Stevenson

July 2, 2024

For the 1.4 million Spanish-speaking households in Arizona, only four candidates’ names near the top of this year’s ballot may look familiar: Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Raquel Terán, and Ruben Gallego.

That’s because, despite millions of dollars already being spent on voter outreach in the state, only a handful of candidates have made significant investments in Spanish-language materials. And of the four who are running Spanish ads on TV, Gallego’s US Senate campaign makes up the lion’s share.

“Campeón” touts Gallego as a champion in the game of life: a veteran, son of immigrants, and loving father. The ad is slated to air on most of Arizona’s local TV stations during the Copa América soccer tournament, with nearly $75,000 spent to air the spot 23 times on Univision.

“Growing up, I remember watching soccer matches with my cousins and rooting for superstars like Carlos Valderrama and Hugo Sánchez,” Gallego said. “When Copa América kicks off this week, communities across Arizona will see this ad and know that I will fight for the issues that matter most to them, including cutting costs, protecting abortion rights, and delivering real solutions to the border crisis.”


Does it work?

But are Spanish-language ads effective? While Latinos are expected to make up 25% of Arizona’s 4 million registered voters this year, the vast majority are bilingual. The benefit, according to UnidosUS’ Latino Voter Initiative Vice President Clarissa Martinez, is representation.

“This is probably true for all voters: regardless of what color, or tribe you come from, you want to see yourselves,” said Martinez. “For Latinos, it doesn’t need to be 100% a Latino ad, but I want to be able to see myself in it. And frankly, considering the diversity of the country, that would seem like a good strategy regardless.”

Extensive polling of Latino voters in Arizona conducted by UnidosUS found that a little less than half took into consideration whether a candidate is Hispanic, Latino, or speaks Spanish when choosing who to vote for. In a state where pivotal races are decided by less than 300 votes, seeing a candidate like Gallego speak Spanish on TV could be enough to tip the scale in his favor.

Gallego’s Republican opponent Kari Lake has yet to run any ads in Spanish. Lake declined to comment on plans to release Spanish-language ads in the future.

Terán, a former state legislator who chaired the Arizona Democratic Party during the 2022 election, told The Copper Courier that reaching out to voters in Spanish is crucial for her congressional race. Terán is running in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, a Latino-majority area currently represented by Gallego.

“My story is similar to many who live here: I was born in Douglas and raised in Agua Prieta, growing up on the street that separates the United States from Mexico. Spanish was my first language,” Terán said. “Being bilingual is part of who I am, and the Spanish language is part of life here in Arizona’s Third Congressional District.”

Terán released her first Spanish ad in July and plans to air it on Univisión, Telemundo, and Hcode.



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A post shared by Raquel Teran (@teranforarizona)

And for Biden, who narrowly won against Trump in 2020, tipping that scale could determine the presidency. While both candidates are running Spanish-language ads, Biden has far outpaced the former president and convicted felon. The Biden campaign has nearly tripled Trump in Spanish TV ads and is the only candidate currently on Telemundo, where he’s run ads consistently since March.

“Latinos are going to be deciders. So investing and winning the support of those voters is a smart strategy,” Martinez said. “Arizona has been a great example of ticket-splitting. Certainly when McCain was around, you would see sizable, if not majority of Latinos willing to support McCain, and then they would support the candidate of a different party in a different race.”


Beyond ads

Martinez also stressed the importance of a multilayered approach to voter outreach. While ads are one component, community involvement can go a long way to sway voters who may feel like they only hear from elected leaders when it’s time to cast a ballot. Republicans attempted this briefly in the fall of 2021 when they opened Hispanic Community Centers in Phoenix in Tucson, but the centers closed shortly after the 2022 elections.

Both the Biden and Gallego campaigns have made a concerted effort to develop a presence in Latino communities. Gallego has partnered with local business owners to host watch parties for events like Copa América and the Cinco de Mayo boxing match between Mexican fighters Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguía, and the Latinos con Biden-Harris initiative, heralded by the President, utilizes trusted local surrogates to boost his campaign.

The multipronged effort appears to be working: despite Biden’s lackluster performance in the June presidential debate, undecided Latino voters who watched said they were more likely to vote for Biden after witnessing Trump unleash a torrent of lies.


More coming

Investment in bilingual ads will only increase as November draws closer—and not just from candidates. On July 1, organizers for the Arizona for Abortion Access Act announced plans to spend $15 million in English and Spanish broadcast ads. The announcement comes as the group solidifies its initiative’s place on the November ballot, which would restore healthcare protections for women and amend the state constitution to make access to abortions a protected right.

“The right to access abortion is supported by the majority of Arizonans,” said campaign manager Cheryl Bruce. “With this initial ad campaign, we will ensure voters know our measure is their best chance to take back their freedom from government interference in personal decisions about pregnancy and abortion.”

The effort will need to make its case to Latino voters in Arizona: among those polled by UnidosUS, only 10% listed abortion as one of their most important issues, although 65% said they believe abortion access should be protected in the way prescribed by the Arizona for Abortion Access Act.


*Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information about Spanish-language outreach by the Terán campaign.


  • 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.

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