With more Latino voters in North Carolina, will the political landscape change?

With more Latino voters in North Carolina, will the political landscape change?

12:38pm May 13, 2022
AP Photo/Anita Snow

A large number of Latinos are expected to cast their vote in the midterm elections this year, closely mirroring the 2018 historic turnout numbers. With that, there has also been a growth in Latino candidates that are addressing issues that matter to that community.

This midterm election, more than 100,000 Latino residents in North Carolina are projected to cast their vote. At the same time, there are more unaffiliated registered voters in North Carolina than Republicans or Democrats. 

Thaís Carrero is the mid-Atlantic director of civic engagement for NALEO Educational Fund, a nonpartisan organization that publishes Latino projection reports for the midterms. She says that this is partly due to the Latino vote not being monolithic.

"The Latino community tends to lean democratic but I think that what's reflected on this profile and which is not unique only to North Carolina is that Latinos are engaging on the issues, regardless of the political party that a candidate represents."

Carrero says many expect the community to be mostly worried about immigration issues. It is a primary concern, but she says most of the focus is on other issues like inflation and economic growth. 

"We care about the economy, we care about the environment, we care about LGBTQ issues, and those are issues that not just the younger population, but everybody in our communities cares about and wants to make sure that our candidates represent our best interests."

Eighteen to 24 year olds are the largest group of Hispanic voters registered to vote this midterm in the state. She says they, too, worry about a myriad of issues, but economic security and inflation seem to rise to the top.

In Forsyth County, most Latino candidates are listed as Republicans. Laura Natividad Pichardo, a Latina Republican candidate currently running to represent North Carolina's 6th Congressional District, says that economic security has helped her create a connection with Latino constituents. Pichardo says she’s targeting most unaffiliated voters, since a large majority are Hispanic. 

"I was reviewing the unaffiliated voter lists and a large majority are Hispanics. Hispanics, don't pick a party," explains Pichardo. "And I think that's more because we don't fit in a one-size-fit-all kind of metric. We are very emotional, we take care of our families. So we like to have social programs in place. But we also want to make sure our economy's strong, so that if people want to create businesses they can." 

Many Latinos aren’t thrilled with President Biden’s handling of the economy. A Quinnipiac national poll released mid-April shows that only 26 percent of Latinos approve the way the way Biden is handling his presidency and only 33 percent approve of the way he’s handling the economy. And this is definitely a concern Pichardo has heard locally. 

"They liked the low taxes, they liked when people went to work and had their freedom to go to work. They miss people wanting to build themselves up and to evolve in trying to create their own businesses."

Jennifer Castillo is a Latina candidate running for the Winston/Salem Forysth County Schools Board of Education as a Democrat. She says her main concern is getting Latinos out to cast their votes. 

"Really what I get told from the constituents is, well, I've never really had a reason to go out and vote until now. So like, now, they're excited that there's somebody running as a reason to go vote during the midterms elections."

Castillo says that regardless of affiliation, people engage more often in the elections when the candidate addresses concerns that are prominent in the community, and take the time to reach them. 

"It's just I feel like now it's just the time for more of us to start stepping up, stepping out and just getting a seat at the table that we definitely deserve."

That kind of approach is a hopeful one for people like Manuel Mejia Diaz with Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan political advocacy group. He says despite optimistic voter turnout projections, he’s seen it doesn’t always pan out that way. 

"So it's up to us to hold these politicians accountable to remind them that Latinos in North Carolina are growing, we are part of the economy, we are part of the community, and we deserve better."

He says he hopes politicians are listening and addressing the issues that matter to this community. Hopefully, he says, that will bring more voters to the polls on election day. 

This story was produced by a partnership between WFDD and La Noticia. You can read this story in Spanish at La Noticia.

Eileen Rodriguez is a reporter for both WFDD and La Noticia through Report for America, where she covers COVID-19's impact in the Latino Communities.

Periodista de La Noticia y 88.1 WFDD, Eileen Rodríguez reporta el impacto de COVID-19 en la comunidad Latina en Carolina del Norte. Rodríguez es miembro del cuerpo de periodistas de Report for America 2021-2022

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