Tennessee Democratic Party Reaching Latino Voters; Hamilton County Democratic Party Says blue Vote Is Strong In Chattanooga
Fuerza Democrats Tennessee is a state political action committee established to identify, organize, educate, and mobilize Latinos across the state and engage them in the political process. On their website, the group offers information, such as if Latino voters are allowed an interpreter to the polls, what to bring when voting, how to become a US Citizen, and more.
In May, the organization registered as a political action committee (PAC) with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office. A PAC pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. The organization says by becoming a PAC, they want to ensure that the growing Latino population in the state is reflected at all levels of government. The committee will be led by Sandra Sepulveda, the group’s founding Executive Director.
I spoke with board member Luis Mata on why the organization made the decision to become a PAC. He says it began with a phone call, that lead to strategy meetings on how the Latinx community can be represented statewide, and the next thing he knew Fuerza was registering as a political action committee.
We're extremely excited for this. And, you know, our ultimate goal is to, you know, center the voices and lives of the Latinx community all across the state.
Mata says oftentimes the Latinx community sees a lack of representation and engagement where they live, and with this PAC they want to change that and amplify those voices. He says Fuerza Democrats Tennessee goes into Hispanic neighborhoods and educates them on local candidates running for office, what they advocate for, and how this could impact the community.
Mata says the group advocates for themselves and all marginalized communities, such as the Black or LGBTQI community. He believes Fuerza is creating a feeling of space, that has been lacking in Tennessee, and filling it with individuals who are directly impacted. He says the power is within themselves, and being the voice is how their mission will be accomplished.
President & COO of Chattanooga company Co.Starters, Jose Alfaro, supports Fuerza’s decision. He believes if you don't have someone representing you, you're not getting your voice heard in this county. Alfaro says if community members explain that politics is not just policy, but that we as a community are here to help, form relationships, and showcase how amazing the Latino community is, they’ll want to participate in the growth of the city and the state.
Fuerza Democrats do a lot of work with undocumented people, who cannot vote, and are being left out of the conversation. Luis Mata says while the right to vote is an essential tool, it is also equally as important to speak with those who can’t and show them what they can do to get others to vote, and spread the message of how that vote affects the Hispanic community.
According to Pew Research Center, only half of the country’s 60 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, which is the smallest share of any racial or ethnic group. PEW says many Hispanics in the United States are under 18 years old, and 11.3 million are non-citizen adults. The Research Center also says two in three eligible Latino voters live in just five states. California alone holds about a quarter of the nation’s Latino electorate, with 7.9 million Latino eligible voters. Texas is second with 5.6 million, followed by Florida, New York, and Arizona.
In 2020, Former President Trump did not win most of the Latino vote in any state, however, he came close in Florida, where the Cuban American vote was decisive, according to AS/COA. Latino voters’ strongest showings for the Republican presidential candidate was in 2004 and 1984, and for the Democratic one in 1996 and 2012. Research also shows Latino voter’s showings for Democrats in 2020, was 66%, Republicans were 32%.
For a long time, the Hispanic population voted Republican, but according to PEW in 2018, for the midterm elections, three out of four Latino voters supported a Democratic candidate. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Rodney Strong says many Hispanic voters are more conservative, because of their religious background or national origin, however this seems to be changing.
In Hamilton County, based on the latest Census, 6% of residents are Hispanic, that's more than 21 thousand people. In 2018 that number was 5.86%, which means the Latino community is growing.
Given these statistics, I asked Chairman Rodney Strong what he thinks seeing representation in leadership will mean to the Hispanic community. Strong says having representation will help HCDP and others do a better job in reaching the Latino community. He says sometimes there is a failure to understand leaders and residents have to reach out to others to understand their point of view and address their needs and concerns. Strong says they reach to local organizations in the county to reach Hispanic voters.
As a group, he says the HCDP tries to get residents out to the ballot box by sending information in the mail, by phone, and by hosting gatherings. He says they are looking to have their first picnic on June 10th, it's their first since the pandemic began.
As reaching voters has been a struggle because of COVID-19, I asked Strong if it was hard to elect Democrats in Hamilton County since we are considered a red community. He says the democratic vote is here, it’s just getting people out to the polls on election day. He says in 2008 President Barack Obama carried Hamilton County. This past year, 53.9% voted for President Trump, and 44.2% voted for current President Joe Biden, which is only a 9.7 percent difference. It’s also one of the closest margins in the state. Strong says while the blue vote is here, the rural areas like Bledsoe, Bradley, and Grundy County are hard to flip, and each party gained voter participation in the recent election. Chairman Strong says it will take some time for Tennessee to turn blue, just as Georgia did, but right now they are focusing on a local grassroots level to get the word out about these candidates and get voters to the polls during election season.
The Hamilton County Democratic Party Headquarters are open on Monday and Wednesday from 1 PM to 4:30 PM. You can also reach them by phone (423) 508-9817, or by email (HCDP, Chairman Strong). If you would like to become a volunteer, click here to fill out a form. More for information on the organization or to donate you can head to their website by clicking here.
If you would like to get involved with Fuerza Democrats Tennessee you can follow them on social media, spread the word about the committee, and donate to the committee through their ActBlue link by clicking here. With donations, they can support candidates. They are also planning their calendar for events, so be on the lookout for that.
My name is Jess and I love telling other peoples stories and bringing awareness to the community.