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Republican National Committee courts NM Hispanic voters with new community center

RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks
Nash Jones
Co-chair of the Republican National Committee, Tommy Hicks, speaks at the opening of the RNC Hispanic Community Center in Albuquerque on Aug. 11, 2022.

With the midterm elections approaching in November, the Republican National Committee is expanding the footprint of what they’re calling their “minority outreach centers” by opening their latest RNC Hispanic Community Center in Albuquerque.

A spokesperson for the RNC said in a statement that the New Mexico center, which it opened Thursday, is the 35th in the country. Others are dedicated to engaging Native American, Black and Asian voters.

The Albuquerque center is located in the newly-redrawn Congressional District 2. That seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, the only Republican in New Mexico's congressional delegation, but Democrats are hoping to take it back in November.

RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks said the committee hopes the space can help the Republican Party build relationships in the Hispanic community here.

“We will train them to be volunteers for candidates and the party,” he said. “But we’re also going to do job fairs, we’re going to pizza parties, we’ll have activities for the kids to do.”

Republican Rep. Rod Montoya, the Minority Whip of the state legislature, told the crowd packed into the small center next to a paleteria in Albuquerque’s West Mesa neighborhood that the Republican party has “plenty of room” for traditional Hispanic values.

Rep. Rod Montoya
Nash Jones
Republican state Rep. Rod Montoya outside of the new RNC Hispanic Community Center in Albuquerque on Aug. 11, 2022.

“In northern New Mexico, we hunt, we fish, we enjoy the land, we are private property owners, we are gun owners,” he told reporters after the event. “In the Democrat Party, you’re shamed out of the party for holding any of those values.”

However, recent polls show a majority of Hispanic and Latino voters nationwide hold values like supporting stricter gun regulation, access to abortion, and allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally, which are policy positions typical of Democrats.

That said, the GOP is making gains in the community. Though most Hispanic and Latino voters cast a ballot for President Joe Biden in 2020, about 10% more voted for Donald Trump than in 2016. He performed significantly better with Latinos without a four-year college degree, garnering 41% of their votes, versus 30% of college-educated Latino voters.

Montoya highlighted that a national New York Times/Siena College poll last month showed a near-even split among Latino voters for the two parties in this year’s congressional elections.

“The same thing that’s happening across the country is now going to happen in New Mexico,” he said. “And that is just this continued exodus of Hispanic Democrats to the Republican Party.”

That same poll showed Latino voters are more likely than any other race or ethnicity to say the economy is the most important issue facing the country right now. Montoya said that’s a boon to the GOP, which he described as “the party of jobs.”

“The people want jobs, the people want to have affordable energy, the people want to be able to afford their groceries, the people want to have a nice house and have self-determination.” He said. “None of those items that I just suggested are priorities in the Democratic party.”

Spokesperson for the Democratic Party of New Mexico Daniel Garcia said in an email that it’s his party that “actually implements the policies that help New Mexico’s Hispanic families get ahead” by “fighting for economic opportunity for all.”

As for the new RNC Hispanic Community Center, Garcia said “The GOP can’t make up for policies that favor the wealthy and a lack of diversity and representation just by renting some commercial office space in a Hispanic neighborhood.”

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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