Posted on May 13, 2020

Biden’s VP Pick Isn’t the Biggest Issue for Latino Activists

Will Weissert and Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press, May 13, 2020

Joe Biden would have to do more than select a Latina running mate to win over Hispanics whose support could be crucial to winning the presidency, according to activists who are warning the presumptive Democratic nominee not to take their community for granted.

Biden is viewed with skepticism among some Latinos for his ties to deportation policies during the Obama administration. Hispanics also strongly sided with Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary.

That presents a challenging dynamic for Biden, who is trying to build a multiracial, multigenerational coalition to take on President Donald Trump. He’s promised to pick a female vice president, and many African Americans say he could lock in the black vote if he chooses a black running mate. But some Latino leaders say Biden will have to go further to win their backing.

“I’m more interested in knowing if Latinos are rooted in their campaign strategy,” said Stephanie Valencia, who runs EquisLabs, a polling and data operation analyzing Latino politics.

Biden has established a committee to lead the vetting of a potential running mate that includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose family has ancestral roots in Mexico. His short list of possible candidates is believed to feature two Latinas, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Neither has the national profile of two black women thought to be among the finalists, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia. They’re also less well known nationally than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who are white.

Mayra Macías, executive director of the political advocacy group Latino Victory, said Grisham and Cortez Masto, as well as other highly qualified Hispanics, have largely been overlooked in the speculation around Biden’s choice.


Trump, who has recently escalated his hard-line immigration rhetoric, isn’t expected to win much Latino support in November. Still, Biden needs Hispanics to turn out for him, not stay home.

“If the calculus is which vice president helps us with which community, then you have to dig deeper and farther than an approach that may land as pandering,” said Lorella Praeli, the Latino outreach director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

In 2016, Clinton considered Castro as a running mate but ultimately opted for a more traditional choice in Sen. Tim Kaine, a white man from Virginia. Domingo Garcia, head of the civil rights activist group the League of United Latin American Citizens, said beyond the vice presidential pick, Biden “has to avoid the trap that Hillary Clinton fell into.”


More than 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote on Election Day — surpassing black voters as the nation’s largest nonwhite bloc. But while 90% of African Americans voted Democratic in 2018, only 66% of Hispanics supported the party, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of voters.