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Ahead of the midterms, Utah Republicans continue to court the Latino vote

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at a Latino Town Hall hosted at Salt Lake Community College's Gran Theatre, Oct. 24, 2022.
Utah State Office of the Governor/Utah State Office of the Governor
courtesy Utah State Office of the Governor
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at a Latino Town Hall hosted at Salt Lake Community College's Gran Theatre, Oct. 24, 2022.

Utah’s Hispanic and Latino voters are getting attention from Republican candidates and politicians this election season.

The Hispanic/Latino community is the second largest in the state after Caucasians according to 2020 Census Data. They are nearly 15% of the population — and 10% of eligible voters as of 2020.

Brigham Young University Political Science professor Quinn Monson said Hispanic voter rates have generally been low, partially because the outreach efforts weren't there.

“They're not being registered and mobilized by political parties to the extent that maybe they would be in other states,” he said. “The small percentage of Hispanics that we have in our electorate generally vote about 60/40 Democratic in most elections.”

Republicans across the country, however, are turning to these voters this election season — including here in Utah.

Gov. Spencer Cox held a Latino Town Hall on Oct. 24, and Sen. Mike Lee took his campaign to Sandy, Utah Oct. 28 for an event with the national group LIBRE Initiative.

As part of the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, LIBRE Initiative President Daniel Garza said the group espouses conservative principles of economic freedom and limited government for the Latino community.

Independent Senate challenger Evan McMullin is also reaching out to Latino voters this election season by working with the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and the president of the Federation of United Mexicans in Utah, according to campaign Spokesperson Kelsey Koenen Witt.

Utah Republican Latino Coalition Chairman Arturo Morales has seen a shift in how Hispanics and Latinos are voting.

Democrats, they’ve had a stronghold on the Hispanic population for quite a few years. But as time has gone on, the Hispanic population has realized that Republican principles line up more with their own values,” he said.

Right now, Morales said the party is focused on the repercussions of inflation and anything that would save the community money.

“Energy prices, gasoline prices have a direct impact on their budget … food prices and the cost of living has gone up tremendously,” Morales said. “So nobody feels the pain more on their wallet than the Hispanic community.”

Whether it's in support of conservative policies or not, Morales wants his community to be politically involved.

“I appreciate how anyone that has a passion or interest in making a difference in their community can find a voice through the Republican Party, he said. “Never in my dreams when I came to the United States did I ever think that I would be able to make a difference. I've been able to.”

Gov. Cox would probably agree with Morales on those points and wants to make room in the party. Speaking at a news conference on Oct. 20, he mentioned the value of the Latino community in the Republican Party.

“I also happen to believe that from the time I lived in Mexico, that many more of our Latinos have shared the same values that I do and would make wonderful Republicans,” Cox noted.

Elle Cabrera is a former KUER reporter
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