David Catanese, Tribune News Service, April 2, 2020
As Joe Biden begins to formalise a list of potential running mates, it’s clear that several African American women will sit prominently at the top. Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams already boast considerable national profiles, and Val Demings, a police chief-turned-congresswoman from Central Florida, earned unexpected notoriety as an impeachment manager in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump.
But even as Hispanics are expected to comprise the largest nonwhite voting bloc in the 2020 election, leaders of the community concede that Latina women enter the veepstakes process as less likely prospects, rather than top-tier hopefuls — the result of a still-maturing power base that’s yet to be fully realized.
Elected officials, interest groups and Hispanic operatives are planning to present a case for a handful of Latina prospects to the Biden campaign. But at the same time, they are emphasising that some type of ethnic diversity is the most important ingredient for a Democratic ticket that will all but certainly be helmed by a 77-year-old white man.
“The Latino community has the potential to be kingmakers and queenmakers. We actually have larger numbers than African Americans, but I think we have a little work to do in flexing our muscle,” said Maria Cardona, one of the top Latina Democratic strategists in the country, noting that the turnout rate for Latinos remained below 50% in 2016. “We’re leaving so much power on the table.”
Latinas will almost certainly appear on Biden’s vetting list, which he said on “The View” on Tuesday would be narrowed to “about 11” in the coming weeks and will include only women. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the first Latina elected to the US Senate, is the first name cited almost universally by Hispanic leaders as a credible contender. A former state attorney general and gubernatorial chief of staff, and the current chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Cortez Masto boasts an impressive resume. Yet the 55-year-old first-term Mexican American senator is largely an unknown figure outside of Nevada and Washington’s small coterie of national Hispanic interest groups.
Democrats are also floating names such as New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, who’s the first Democratic Latina governor and a former congresswoman, and Reps. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, the first two Latinas elected to Congress from Texas in 2018.
California Rep. Tony Cardenas, who chairs the fundraising PAC of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he’s prepared a list of five Latinas for the Biden campaign, including California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, in addition to Cortez Masto, Lujan Grisham and Escobar.
Placing a Latina on the ticket would signal a slightly different electoral path for Biden that bets on the Southwest, whereas an African American running mate would demonstrate a more conventional play toward boosting black turnout in urban Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as North Carolina and even Georgia.
Given that a drop-off in black turnout was a determining factor in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, Biden faces enormous pressure not to repeat a mistake of taking that vote for granted, regardless of his strong African American support during the primaries.
“The bigger issue isn’t black vs. brown. A woman of colour as VP would get most women of colour motivated,” said Aimee Allison, the founder and president of She the People, a national network empowering women of color.