New Mexico GOP courting Latinos, Native American voters

The Associated Press

Russell Contreras
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Republicans will embark on an aggressive strategy to win over Hispanic and Native American voters in 2020 as the party experiences its most diverse primary races in recent history, state chairman Steve Pearce announced.

Pearce said the state party will appoint Hispanic and Native American outreach coordinators in all of the state's 33 counties. He is also urging all candidates to travel to Democratic strongholds instead of just focusing on the GOP's traditional base.

"I am excited about minority candidates saying more broadly for the first time, 'I am Republican, and I'm going to run as a Republican,'" Pearce said. "That is pretty powerful."

Native Americans and Latinos are running in two GOP primaries for U.S. House seats and for the U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico. 

Anti-abortion activist Elisa Martinez, a Latina Republican and member of Navajo Nation, is seeking the GOP nomination for an open U.S. Senate spot. Among her opponents are Louie Sanchez, a Hispanic shooting range owner, and college professor Gavin Clarkson, a member of Choctaw Nation.

"This is something that is energizing to me because Republicans really have not done a good job at reaching into Hispanic communities," Pearce said.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico has faced criticism for not reaching out to Hispanic voters enough and for maintaining mostly white leadership. Latino Democrats in the state Senate created a Hispanic Caucus in 2017 after fellow Democrats elected an all-white leadership team.

In 2018, however, New Mexico elected an all Democratic, all minority U.S. House delegation for the first time.

Asked what the party would do to reach out to Hispanic and Native American voters, Democratic Party of New Mexico Chair Marg Elliston said it would seek to attract as many voters as possible. 

Elliston later told reporters the party was looking into hiring a Native American statewide outreach coordinator.

New Mexico has the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation and a sizable Native American population.

President Donald Trump has said he intends to win New Mexico's five electoral votes and his campaign has set up offices in the state.

Pearce said a Trump rally in September drew a diverse crowd of supporters.

Elliston said Democrats intend to focus on Trump's past remarks about immigrants and other groups, which she said was based on "hate."

Trump has drawn criticism throughout his presidency for making racist comments about Latinos, Muslims and other people of color.

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Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press' race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/russcontreras

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