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Tuesday 18 September 2018
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More Latinx Candidates Are Running For Office, But Will They Have the Votes?

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Since the start of the Trump presidency, it’s become clear that more Americans are now unwilling to simply stand by and accept unfavorable political outcomes. From teenaged social activism to increased voter turnout nationwide, it’s clear that We the People aren’t going to take this lying down. All across the country, more women and people of color have thrown their hats in the ring and are up for election in the 2018 primaries. In fact, the number of Latinx candidates running for office this year is unprecedented. But in a field that’s quickly become crowded with new faces, it may be harder than ever for the U.S. Hispanic population to elect representatives — even in Texas, which is home to a higher percentage of Latinx residents than most other states in the nation.

Of course, President Trump’s positions on immigration and the border wall haven’t sat well with the Latinx population. In Texas, the population that identifies as Hispanic represents 39% of the state (compared to the national percentage of 17%), with 47 of its counties having Latinx majority populations. And according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey’s five-year estimates from 2016, the Lone Star State also has the largest share of residents of Mexican origin. Although Democrats have not won a statewide election in Texas since 1994, some officials are hopeful that this year’s primary elections could break that streak, in part due to complications stemming from DACA.

Early voter turnout has proved promising, with over 800,000 voters submitting their ballots in-person or via mail this year. Around 36% of people under the age of 30 look forward to checking their mail every day, but preliminary numbers show that nearly 300,000 more voters chose to utilize the United States Postal Service for voting or drop off their ballots early than in 2014. And compared to figures from four years ago, approximately 150% more Democrats voted early this year, with major turnout spikes in six Texas counties with high Latinx populations. This year is actually the first time Democratic early voter turnout has ever surpassed Republican early voter turnout in the primaries here.

The boost could be thanks, in part, to Millennial voters. Young Latinx voters have not always been reliable in terms of poll turnout, according to Voto Latino, but they make up around 44% of the Latinx electorate. And overall, a Pew Research Center survey found that Millennial early interest in this year’s midterm elections is greater than in the past two congressional elections; in 2018, 62% of registered Millennial voters said they were looking forward to the midterms, while only 46% said the same in 2014 and 39% agreed with that statement in 2010. These young voters are also more likely to lean Democratic or belong to the Democratic Party: around 59% affiliate with the Democratic Party, while 44% identify as independents. And nearly two-thirds of Millennial voters say they disapprove of Trump.

But that’s not to say that Latinx candidates will have an easy time getting elected. Because of how crowded the field is and how challenging it can be to raise funding for campaigns for women and people of color, these races are going to be tight. While former Texas senator Sylvia Garcia was tapped as an early favorite to win the Democratic primary in the largely Hispanic 29th Congressional District, there were six other candidates in the running — one of whom has cash on his side. Wealthy healthcare executive Tahir Javed was endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after Javed held a major fundraiser for the New York Democrat, a move that upsets both Latinx advocates and Democratic groups alike. Still, as of Tuesday night, Garcia won her bid for the Democratic nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Gene Green — alongside former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, another proud Latina, who will replace U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke — in the Senate.

All across Texas, candidates took to social media to thank voters as the primary results started to roll in. While around 23% of Millennials say social media has a significant impact on their choice of travel destination, these digital platforms are now being used for much more than wanderlust.

A recent study from American Press Institute found that 85% of Millennials say keeping up with current news is at least somewhat important to them, and 69% say they read the news daily. For many, social media feeds provide access to trending stories and allow them to connect with other like-minded individuals. In fact, a study called the Millennial Impact Project, which examined how Millennials’ “cause engagement behaviors” change during election years, found that the majority of these young users said they posted about issues they cared about on social media within the last week.

That, according to Adweek, has prompted politicians to embrace these platforms as well. While regular companies use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to generate web traffic, increase brand awareness, convert leads, and bring in new customers, politicians are starting to utilize these same networks to connect with voters and drum up support from these active Millennial users. In fact, Adweek estimated politicians will allocate 9% of their entire media budget to digital and social media campaigns for this purpose.

In some cases, these efforts may pay off. But since no one is more technologically savvy than Millennials, politicians may be playing catch-up for quite a while. Ultimately, these young voters will likely vote with their hearts and want to see themselves represented in office — which may, in fact, be good news for female and minority candidates throughout the nation.

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