Top of the ticket candidates in Arizona make their case in Spanish

Kyrsten Sinema has been airing ads in Spanish since July. Image courtesy YouTube

When canvassers with Unite Here Local 631 told Maria Aguilar she should vote for Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, the Maryvale homeowner was quiet for a moment while she tried to place the name to a face.

“Oh yes, it’s the güerita who’s on (TV), who speaks Spanish,” Aguilar said in Spanish, using the Mexican slang for blonde or light-skinned woman.  

Sinema, who’s running for a U.S. Senate in a contested race against Republican Martha McSally, has run Spanish-ads on TV since July. In March, Sinema’s campaign launched a digital ad of her speaking in Spanish about her upbringing, saying “I’ve been in your shoes” and that she’ll advocate for better education and access to healthcare.

It was the first time in the 2018 election cycle that a candidate for Senate had an ad in a language other than English, according to the National Journal.  

Spanish speakers in Arizona have heard from at least one of the candidates in the four main statewide races.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey’s reelection campaign began airing an ad a week before Election Day on the two main Spanish-language TV stations, Univision and Telemundo, in the Phoenix and Tucson markets, according to campaign spokesman Daniel Scarpinato.

Ducey’s campaign has spent $108,325 on Spanish-language television, Scarpinato said. Democratic challenger David Garcia, who’s campaign launch video from October 2017 had phrases in Spanish, has spent $115,000 on Spanish-language media buys, which includes TV and radio, according to campaign spokeswoman Vianey Olivarria.

In the run up to Election Day, political ads flooded Spanish-language radio and TV in the Phoenix metro area, mostly from Democratic candidates and progressive groups. Family and hard work are common themes, and many ads focus on President Donald Trump.

With more Latinos poised to vote in the midterm elections, mostly due to younger U.S.-born Latinos coming of age, and several Latinos running in statewide, federal and local races, there’s a diversity in the races reaching out to Arizona voters in Spanish, but the timing of the political ads hasn’t changed from previous years.

“Overall, I think Arizona is falling behind in reaching out to Latino voters, not paying attention to Latinos until later (in the campaign season),” said Ana Carolina Pereira, who was director of outreach for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain’s campaign in 2016.

There have also been typos or grammatical errors in Spanish-language ads.

A billboard from MiAZ coalition, a group of local progressive nonprofits, promoting Democrat David Garcia mispelled the Spanish word for governor, and the campaign against Proposition 127 ran a digital ad with several grammatical errors.

Speaking the their language

Besides Sinema and Garcia, Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction Kathy Hoffman also spoke to Spanish-speakers in their language in mid-October. January Contreras, the Democrat running for Attorney General, also has a radio ad in Spanish.

Steve Gaynor, the Republican vying for the secretary of state post who said in August that he supports overturning a federal law that requires election materials to be provided in a language other than English, is also running Spanish-language ads. He bought 30 spots over three weeks in the Mujeres Únicas show hosted by Stella Paolini, which airs every weekday morning on 1190 AM and 105.9 FM, according to the Phoenix New Times.

On Friday’s morning show, Gaynor’s ad, voiced by Paolini, aired five times.

“As a grandson of immigrants and a businessman, Steve Gaynor recognizes that we need a voice in the government that represent us with dignity. Steve Gaynor will bring us the possibility of a clean and honest election,” Paolini says in the ad. It then promotes Gaynor’s Spanish-language website and features Gaynor saying in Spanish that he approved the message.

Paolini told the Arizona Mirror the ad ran over the weekend, as well.

A campaign spokesman for Katie Hobbs, Gaynor’s Democratic opponent, called the ad hypocritical. Hobbs hasn’t run ads on Spanish-language media, but other groups have chipped in to talk about the race in Spanish.

Since mid-October, the American Civil Liberties Union has run ads on Spanish-language radio highlighting Gaynors controversial comment on election materials, and saying Hobbs has “pledged to defend the law and protect our right to vote,” but stopping short of endorsing her.

The ACLU spent almost $130,000 in production and media buys for this ad, which ran digitally too, said ACLU spokesman Steve Kilar.

The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, which spent over $22,000 in Spanish-language media buys in Arizona, released a radio ad supporting Hobbs in October.

People for the American Way
A screenshot of a Spanish-language ad by People for the American Way. Image courtesy YouTube

Meanwhile, groups like Mi Familia Vota, a civic engagement nonprofit, and People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy group, and the Democratic National Committee have centered their messaging in Spanish to urge voters to engage against President Trump’s agenda.

Chispa Arizona, a Latino outreach program of the League of Conservation Voters, launched ads on TV, radio and digital ads in Spanish urging voters to support the two Democrats for Corporation Commission races.

Who is the Latino electorate?

Latinos make up 31.4 percent of the overall population in Arizona, and they account for 23.4 percent of all the eligible voters in the state (up from 22 percent in 2016), according to the Pew Research Center.   

In 2016, Latinos accounted for 9.2 percent of voters nationally, and in general, Latinos have lower turnout rates when compared to other voting groups. That is also true in Arizona. In 2016, 47.6 percent of Hispanics in Arizona voted compared to 65.3 percent of White voters and 59.4 percent of Black voters, according to Census data.

About 66 percent of Latinos in the Phoenix metro area speak Spanish at home, according to Pew.

A poll conducted in September by ASU’s Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research and Latino Decisions, a national polling group, found that 46 percent of registered Latino voters identify as Democrats, 21 percent as Republicans and 24 percent had no party affiliation.

Among registered Latinos, 37 percent said immigration is among the most important issues facing Arizona (compared to 54 percent of Republican respondents and 40 percent of White registered voters). The was next biggest issue for Latino voters was K-12 education, followed by healthcare, which is line with other voters.   

Another poll by Univison and polling company Media Predict found that 49 percent of Latinos identify as Democrat, 23 percent as Republican and 28 percent identify as other.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.

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