A report released Tuesday by the LIBRE Institute identifies the top 22 House, Senate, and gubernatorial races that are most likely to be decided by Latino voters this year.
The findings, while not especially shocking, offer an interesting look at some of the most-contested races this cycle, as Democratic operatives have in recent days become more concerned about a perceived lack of enthusiasm among Latino voters. The Koch-affiliated nonprofit’s third biennial Hispanic Margin of Victory Project estimates the projected Latino turnout in 2018 and compares it to each highlighted race’s margin of victory in the previous election cycle.
The LIBRE Institute is part of a network of conservative groups that receive funding from Charles Koch and other donors to promote tenets such as low taxes and free markets. LIBRE focuses on the Latino community; as THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported in March, after Hurricane Maria displaced Puerto Ricans, in Florida the group offered free English classes, career assistance—and some conservative outreach on the side.
LIBRE's electoral report steers clear of making political judgments, though, offering instead a rather straightforward look at population trends and how they could play into specific elections. It recognizes 22 key races, including 13 in the House, three in the Senate, and six gubernatorial campaigns, marking an increase from LIBRE’s 2016 findings, which identified 13 races. In 2014, the report took note of 19 races.
“With each passing year, the voice of the Latino community becomes more and more influential in American culture and politics. In recent years, the Hispanic MVP report has done a great job of identifying key races in which the Latino community—through the power of the vote—may decide who represents a state or district,” said Daniel Garza, president of the LIBRE Institute.
According to analysis from the Pew Research Center, an all-time high of 29 million Latino voters are eligible to vote this year, representing 12.8 percent of all eligible voters. Historically, voter turnout in this group is low compared with other demographics. Pew Research Center’s Antonio Flores and Mark Hugo Lopez write that about 71 percent of eligible Latino voters lived in just six states last year, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas. Those states feature heavily in LIBRE’s report.
In Arizona, LIBRE projects that 30.9 percent of eligible Latino voters will cast a ballot statewide. If accurate, this means those voters may make up 18 percent of the vote in Arizona’s 2nd District. In 2016, Republican Martha McSally won that district by 14 percent. This year, McSally is running to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake, another race that LIBRE says could be decided by Latino voters. (Read my colleague David Byler on McSally’s chances).
Four California districts made their way onto the list, as well as Colorado’s 6th District, where Republican incumbent Mike Coffman is trailing behind his Democratic challenger, Jason Crow. In 2016, Colorado’s 6th District went for Hillary Clinton by nearly 10 points, and Coffman held onto the seat by about 8 points. LIBRE estimates Latinos will cast about 8.7 percent of the votes in the district, which is slightly higher than Coffman’s 2016 margin of victory.
In Florida, LIBRE says that three congressional races, as well as the governor’s race and the Senate race, could be determined by Latino voters. Of note is Florida’s 26th District, where two-term incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo is in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent, Debbie Murcarsel-Powell. The report estimates 40.7 percent of eligible Latino voters in the state of Florida will go to the polls, and will represent 61.2 percent of the vote in Curbelo’s district. Curbelo won with a margin of just under 12 points in 2016.
Along with other competitive campaigns in Nevada and New Mexico, LIBRE expects that Texas’s 23rd District, which is historically a swing district and is home to many Hispanic voters, will also be decided by this demographic. The report suggests about 40.7 percent of eligible Hispanic voters in the 23rd district will cast ballots. Republican Will Hurd has held onto his seat representing the sprawling, massive district by tirelessly visiting voters in its tiny towns in rural west Texas and in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and he has performed well in polls leading up to the election.
“Candidates who ignore the Hispanic electorate will do so at their own peril,” LIBRE’s report summarizes. “Both sides of the aisle have a powerful incentive, if not an outright necessity, to reach out to and connect with this growing electorate.”