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The Role Of The Latino Vote In Nevada's Senate Race


And now we turn to Nevada, where Latinos there have played a key role for Democrats. In a closely watched Senate race, Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen defeated the incumbent, Republican Dean Heller. Rosen won by a little less than 50,000 votes. Jon Ralston is the editor of the Nevada Independent. And he joins us now from KNPR in Las Vegas. Welcome.

JON RALSTON: Hi there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Rosen was a first-term congresswoman - not a lot of statewide name recognition. Heller, on the other side, was a well-known name. He'd never lost a race. How did she win?

RALSTON: The biggest factor, really, in the end was the Democratic machine here in Nevada. It didn't matter whether Jacky Rosen was a relative newcomer or had been around a while. The Democratic machine turned out votes like it was a presidential year. And this race then was decided fairly early on in the evening, when the returns started coming in from early and absentee voting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. We were in Las Vegas in September. And we covered the Culinary Union's Get Out The Vote campaign. The union represents the hospitality workers in the casinos and hotels on the strip. And, you know, they had a pretty big operation going on. What role did the union play this time around?

RALSTON: The union, which is, as you know, more than half Hispanic, made thousands or maybe tens of thousands of contacts. It has 55- or 60,000 members, many of whom they got registered. They clearly had an impact. How much of an impact? We'll know more when more data rolls in.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. When I went out with the Culinary Workers Union to knock on doors, you know, Latinos were responsive. And part of that is because the Culinary Union is a trusted voice, right? And if they're asking you to vote in a certain way, which is Democratic, then you're more likely to come out.

RALSTON: They have a remarkable machine. And I don't think that should be underestimated. But what I also think should not be underestimated is something that existed for the Hispanic vote in this midterm that did not exist in 2014, and that is the voice of Donald Trump. His harsh rhetoric on immigration - and then towards the end, bringing up issues that, really, are toxic in many places in the Hispanic community, like birthright citizenship and memories of the noxious term anchor babies. I think that generated some turnout.

Again, it's difficult to quantify that. But the reaction against Donald Trump, the threat that some portions of the Hispanic community believes that this administration has to things like DACA - and most Hispanics have a relative or a friend who has been granted either status here through Temporary Protected Status or DACA. I think that had an impact on the turnout.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is the Republican Party post-mortem looking like now in the state? I mean, it was a big loss. It was one of the few Senate seat losses so far. So what are they saying about how they move forward?

RALSTON: The Republicans have to find out how they are going to actually be relevant now in this state, not just in terms of governing at the state level, but what's coming up in a couple of years, of course, is reapportionment. And if the Democrats control all the levers of power here, that's a - decades in the wilderness for Republicans if they're not careful.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mentioned that Donald Trump's immigration rhetoric may have boosted turnout among Hispanics. We don't know, but it may have done that. Do you think that this will cause the Republican Party to maybe rethink the way that they engage with that community?

RALSTON: I guess I'd harken back to the so-called Republican Party autopsy report, if you remember that, after...


RALSTON: Barack Obama won re-election. That was a blueprint on how to reach out to the Hispanic community. As we all know, Donald Trump had a different approach. And so it's hard to believe that Trump is going to soften his rhetoric, so I doubt that that is going to happen. Although, I would guess in certain states - and maybe Nevada is one of them. Maybe there are Republican leaders who will rethink tethering themselves to that rhetoric.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is Nevada blue now?

RALSTON: It's interesting you mention that. I'm working on a piece on that. I think it is very difficult for the Republicans to consider Nevada in play anymore based on what the Democratic machine was able to do in a midterm. If they can do this in a midterm, then in 2020, it should be even a bigger deal for them. And I'm not sure that Nevada should be taken off of the map, but it's getting pretty close.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jon Ralston, editor of The Nevada Independent, thank you very much.

RALSTON: You bet.