Presidential Candidates Court Hispanic Vote in Nevada
The three little girls, all wearing glittery shoes, sit patiently on brown folding chairs near the supermarket checkout lines. Their mom, Nelly Tobon, is excited to hear the woman she is supporting for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“I want to have a president woman,” Tobon said in halting English. “I want the real change.” Tobon says she likes Warren because they think alike on family issues.
WATCH: Presidential Candidates Eagerly Court the Hispanic Vote in Nevada
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A grocery store is an unusual venue for a political rally. But this market specializes in items like Pollo Asado and tamales, and is in the heart of a Latino community in East Las Vegas. Traditional Mexican folklore dancers entertain the crowd as they wait for the presidential candidate.
Before Warren takes the stage, VOA asks about her strategy for Hispanic votes in Nevada.
“We are in here talking to people right now. It’s reaching out,” she said.
1 in 4 Nevadans is Hispanic
Nevada, which holds the “First Caucus in the West,” is also the first test of a candidate’s appeal to minority voters. Latinos make up 28% of the state’s voting electorate.
Introducing Warren to the supermarket crowd is Julian Castro, a former presidential candidate and Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration.
The rally is hosted by civic group Mi Familia Vota and its executive director, Héctor Sánchez Barba, who asks Warren questions about minimum wage, Puerto Rican debt, immigration, health care and Latino representation.
“Will you commit to four Latinos in your Cabinet?” Sanchez Barba asked.
“Are you going to limit me to four?” quipped Warren, who later adds she cannot promise numbers but can promise “a seat at the table.”
360 Video: Fountains and Crowds in Las VegasLas Vegas' popular strip, home to hotels and casinos, is crowded with tourists and crowd-pleasing sites. VOA's Carolyn Presutti, in Nevada to cover the state's caucuses Saturday, shares some of the views.
Latinos like Sanders
Warren and the other candidates are trying to catch up to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. A Univision News poll released earlier this week shows 33% of Latinos plan to support Sanders on Saturday.
Chuck Rocha, a senior adviser and the highest-ranking Latino on Sanders’ campaign staff, wears a black cowboy hat, reminiscent of his hometown of Tyler, Texas. His white T-shirt says, “Tio Bernie” (Uncle Bernie) in red and blue letters.
Rocha credits early work (eight months earlier) in the Latino community and said there are 76 Latinos on Sanders’ Nevada staff.
“Hire Latinos, listen to Latinos, and then invest in Latinos and that’s how you get them out to vote,” Rocha said.
Kicking in the vote
Rocha is watching a soccer tournament sponsored by the Sanders campaign. Young male teams alternate on and off the field. Music is playing and a food stand offers made-to-order burritos, tacos and quesadillas, with horchata (a milky Mexican drink made of rice and flavored with cinnamon and sugar) to drink. But one person is missing — Sanders. Rocha said Sanders is traveling the state and cannot be at every event.
Soccer spectators were sparse and most could not vote because of their status without documentation.
Several soccer players said they entered the U.S. as children and lack the proper documentation, but are able to stay in the U.S. under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This policy allows some individuals to be eligible for a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.
Nonetheless, a Sanders van stood waiting, in case anyone needed to be driven to the polls to cast early votes in the caucus.