By Eliza Willis, Grinnell College and Janet A. Seiz, Grinnell College
Joe Biden won Florida’s 2020 Democratic primary, capturing a majority of the state’s Latino voters. Polls have been tracking the Latino vote in Democratic presidential primaries, and many analysts are trying to predict which candidate Latinos might favor in November. Interest in Florida has been especially strong. Observers commonly speak of “the Latino vote” as if Latinos make up a distinct and unified interest group. This both overstates and understates Latinos’ uniqueness.
Thousands of people – including at least one person who drove from Seattle – came to Downtown El Paso on Saturday morning to see presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke kickoff his presidential campaign. Kali Pratt 22, drove nearly 2,000 miles from Bellingham, Wash., where she’s attending Western Washington University, to attend O’Rourke’s rally. “I still need to study him more and his policies before I can say he has my vote, but from I’ve seen here, I like him,” Pratt said as O’Rourke gave his 30-minute speech. “I’m studying immigration and human rights, I came and drove all along the border region just to see how the situation was being handled,” she said. “It is clear to me that immigration reform is one of the most pressing issues, and how it’s being handled, also I’m an idealist 22-year-old, so in a perfect world I would love health care for all and for tuition to be lowered,” she said.
Among the crowd of nearly 4,000, many young people joined the rally to support Beto O’Rourke as he launched his presidential campaign at El Paso, Texas. O’Rourke “has, overall, great views for young people and pretty much for everybody,” said 14-year-old Ethan James Rosenbaum from Phoenix, Ariz. O’Rourke is one of the 18 current candidates running for U.S. president for the 2020 term. He will be hosting two more rallies at Houston and Austin after his rally at El Paso on Saturday. Rosenbaum first heard about O’Rourke when he announced that he was running for president.
President Donald Trump took his fight for a border wall to El Paso on Monday as a coalition of anti-wall protestors staged a competing rally at the same time not far from the County Coliseum where the president held his gathering. Trump took to the stage about 7:20 p.m, before an enthusiastic crowd in the 6,500 capacity coliseum, which was originally built for rodeos and livestock shows. The president was flanked by banners calling for “Finish the Wall.”
Photo gallery: Trump rally in El Paso February 2019
Photo gallery: March for Truth in El Paso February 2019
The competing March for Truth was organized by a coalition led by the Border Network for Human Rights, Women’s March El Paso and some 40 other community partners and included speeches by former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and current congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso).
El Paso has been at the center of the controversy over a border wall as Trump has demanded Congress fund $5.7 billion to erect a wall, saying it is necessary to keep the United States safe from illegal immigration, which he has called a crisis. In his State of the Union address, Trump declared El Paso was a dangerous place before the wall, but El Paso officials dispute that depiction, saying the city has been one of the safest in the nation long before border fencing was installed. The government shut down for a record 35 days from Dec.
Voters under age 30 are playing an increasingly crucial role in El Paso County elections, a sign that younger Latinos are becoming more engaged in the political process in the Donald Trump era. Voters under age 30 accounted for almost 17 percent of El Paso voters in the 2018 midterm election, up from 8 percent in the 2014 midterm. Put another way, more than one in every six voters in El Paso this year was under age 30, compared to one in 13 in 2014. Related story: Here’s what the young voter surge looked like at UT El Paso
The 2018 election featured an El Pasoan, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, at the top of a statewide ticket for the first time in Texas history. O’Rourke’s presence, combined with President Trump’s deep unpopularity among Latino voters, led to El Paso more than doubling its turnout between midterm elections, going from 82,000 in 2014 to 203,000 in 2018.
A record 457,141 El Paso County residents are registered to vote for the Nov. 6 election, according to data from the County Elections Department. That’s up from 427,850 in the 2016 presidential election and 404,580 in 2014, the last midterm election. Click here to see mobile friendly version of map
El Paso’s voter registration grew by 6.8 percent since 2016, faster than the state’s 4.6 percent growth rate. Preliminary figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show that only 18 of Texas’ 254 counties have had a higher percentage growth of registered voters than El Paso between 2016 and 2018.
EL PASO – Currently, 80 percent of lawmakers in the Texas Legislature are men, as well as 80 percent in the U.S. Congress. But that may change as movements for more women in politics grow. In El Paso, more than a dozen women turned out to a recent Candidate 101 forum hosted by Annie’s List—a statewide organization whose purpose is to get more progressive, pro-choice women to run for and win office. “I’m really encouraged that they would be willing to lend their gifts and talents to our community,” said former El Paso City Council representative and current EPISD trustee Susie Byrd. “I think it’s so important and so necessary that courageous people with a vision for our community step up to lead.”
Former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar won a landslide victory in the March 6 Democratic primary for Texas’ 16thCongressional District. Escobar took more than 61 percent of the vote in a six-person race. Second-place finisher Dori Fenenbock, the former El Paso Independent School District board president, had 22 percent of the vote. “Words cannot describe how humbled and grateful I am. I am privileged to be your Democratic nominee, privileged to be your candidate,” Escobar wrote to supporters the day after the election.
EL PASO – Lawmakers from this border community are concerned about the harm that would result if Texas begins requiring law enforcement and other agencies to act as immigration agents. The Texas Senate on Feb. 9 passed SB4, which Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, called “a thinly disguised attack on immigrant communities.”
The so-called “anti-sanctuary cities” bill would allow the state to penalize cities over policies that obstruct enforcement of immigration law or discourage police agencies from inquiring about a person’s immigration status. The Texas House is now considering its version of the bill. The senator says he, along with other opponents of the bill, offered amendments to decrease the negative impacts the passage of bill would have on health, safety and social life of communities.