Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
In Plaza Cuauhtemoc, a paleteria serves up elotes and chilindrinas. Next door, the Republican National Committee on Thursday opened an RNC Hispanic Community Center.
It is part of a multimillion-dollar, nationwide effort by the RNC to open dozens of similar centers across the country – from Philadelphia to Robeson County, North Carolina – to appeal to people of color.
The RNC has also opened more than 30 similar centers geared toward Black, Native American and other groups that are reliably Democratic voters. The one set up on Albuquerque’s West Side near the 6200 block of Central NW is the first one in New Mexico for the 2022 election.
A diverse crowd, including elected officials and candidates, packed the small center on Thursday, where U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks and Steve Pearce, the chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, delivered remarks. They touched on talking points the GOP hopes will resonate with Hispanics on the West Side: inflation, the price of gas, the border with Mexico and “family values.”
“It’s an opportunity to build relationships with people who traditionally have not voted Republican,” Hicks said. “Most people are in line with our values, and it’s our job to go out there and build the relationships.”
Hicks said existing centers the RNC has organized have trained people to work campaigns, held job fairs and hosted pizza parties. A center in Houston was offering classes to prepare for citizenship tests, he said.
Brian Sanderoff, the president of Research & Polling, said it’s essential in a state like New Mexico for Republicans, who only make up about 31% of registered voters, to win over reliably Democratic groups. Though Hispanics tend to vote Democrat, they can lean conservative on social issues and the GOP has had some recent success converting them to Republican to win key races, including in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
“Their primary target would be, in my opinion, … rural communities, let’s say in north-central New Mexico, northern New Mexico, and not in places like Santa Fe or the town of Taos,” he said.
The courtship is intended to chip away at a significant Democratic advantage among the population, he said.
“Republicans, they don’t have to win these areas, and they’re not going to, but their goal is to soften their losses, so that they can then win statewide,” he said.
In 2020, President Biden received 59% of the Hispanic vote and former President Trump earned 38%, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. Trump earned 28% of the Hispanic vote in 2016.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico didn’t comment on the center.
Albuquerque’s heavily Hispanic South Valley will be casting ballots in Herrell’s race for the first time this year after redistricting.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to get even more engaged with these new voters from a new part of the district,” she said. “The best thing I can do is be a good listener, and I’m finding that the concerns in the new part of the district are the same concerns in the old part of the district.
“Guess what? Across the board, no one likes the high gas prices, or this high inflation or this uptick in crime.”
Hispanics aren’t the only group that New Mexico Republicans are trying to recruit to their ranks. The Republican State Leadership Committee recently announced that women and people of color account for 62% of the 50 Republicans who will be candidates for open New Mexico House seats this year.
Pearce, who previously represented southern New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District for 14 years, says it’s essential for Republicans to make inroads in minority communities. He said he was able to win over Hispanic and Native American Democrats only after repeatedly meeting with them in person.
“It took me 10 years going into Native American reservations to win the first reservation,” he said. “I kept going back, and back and back. Eventually, they got over the fact that I was a Republican and began to listen to what I said, and said, ‘We like that; we agree with it.'”